Property division is one of the great unknowns in a pending divorce. Unless you have a prenuptial agreement that the courts uphold, you with either need to agree on terms with your spouse or let the courts decide how to split up your possessions. That can leave you with little control over the outcome of your divorce.
Understanding how the courts handle asset division can help you prepare for the various potential outcomes to your divorce. Once you understand how assets get divided, you can focus on ensuring that your personal property remains separate and protected during the divorce.
Colorado courts strive to fairly divide your marital assets
Colorado divorce law requires the courts to approach asset division from a marital property standpoint. In general, this means that the courts attempt to fairly split up assets and debts acquired during marriage. The courts will consider many factors, including the duration of the marriage, the economic circumstances of each spouse and the contributions of both spouses to the marriage. Those contributions include unpaid work as a homemaker or parent.
In general, the courts will consider most all assets that you earned or received during your marriage marital property. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Assets you owned prior to marriage can remain your separate property. Anything you receive as a gift or an inheritance typically remains the separate property of one spouse. There are some situations where the courts will still divide separate property.
Beware of commingling your assets during your marriage
Given that many people do not plan their lives and futures on the potential that they could end up divorced, it's common for married couples to treat all of their assets like joint assets. Sharing your wealth can improve the family's standard of living. However, it can also place you in a dangerous situation in the event that your marriage fails.
If your spouse had access to or control over assets you acquired before marriage or through an inheritance, he or she may have a claim to those assets in your divorce. Depositing a cash inheritance into a shared account, for example, could make those funds marital property, despite only one spouse being the actual heir intended to inherit anything.
Similarly, if you owned your home outright prior to marriage, you may consider it separate property. If your spouse contributes substantially to the maintenance and upkeep of the home, it is possible that the courts will allocate some of your interest in the property to your spouse. It is always in your best interest to insulate your separate property from your marital property during your marriage. Failing to do so could cost you substantially during a divorce.