Protecting Your Assets During A Divorce

Posted in Divorce,Separation on March 22, 2017

In a divorce, it’s usually more than the people that become separated; assets owned conjointly, or even those you owned before marriage, can go to your ex-spouse. This is often the most contentious subject in a divorce, but there’s ways your can protect your assets so that you can keep them.

While the discussions may take a long time to complete, there’s no reason they can’t be amicable. Every divorce is different, and depending on a number of factors which may apply toward your marriage, there are numerous things to take into consideration.

Colorado Divorce Laws

Colorado is actually a separate property state, which means that things you owned before getting married are not automatically owned by your spouse upon marriage. These assets are divided equally upon divorce. According to Colorado law, the court will take the following matters into consideration when it comes to dividing assets:

  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker.
  • The value of the property set apart to each spouse.
  • The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home to the spouse with whom any children reside the majority of the time.
  • Any increases or decreases in the value of the separate property of the spouse during the marriage or the depletion of the separate property for marital purposes.

Any gifts, property handed down from family, or otherwise legally excluded items, whether acquired before or after marriage, are not included in assets to be divided.

Valuing Your Property

This is where it’s crucial to be as diligent as possible; a divorce is a tiring, frustrating and potentially expensive process, but making the effort to accurately count, appraise and declare all your property will make everything much easier in the long run.

One of the first things you’ll want to do is get proof of property that was gifted or inherited. You and your ex-spouse may very well be separating cordially and they know what’s yours, but it’s still important to itemize your property. You’ll also want to ascertain the status of your property; for example, find out if your spouse has placed a lien on your car, or has deposited money in alternate accounts. You should also make sure there are no outstanding tickets or payments due on your car.

When a divorce is filed, one spouse usually moves out of the shared residence. In this case, you are allowed to return to the residence to retrieve all of your belongings. Even if the situation becomes tumultuous and your spouse changes the locks, you are allowed to have a locksmith help you inside so you can get what belongs to you.

The general idea here is to be thorough; photograph items, properly value personal assets, organize all records and other proof. Even if you feel this is not necessary, as previously mentioned, it will help streamline the divorce. Should the proceedings become contentious, you’ll be happy that you kept close track of your assets.

Commingling Assets

For the items that are particularly valuable, or assets that aren’t physical, you may want to hire an appraiser. Real estate, stocks, joint bank accounts, joint business ownership, retirement plans; placing the proper value on all of your assets will ensure that you will be compensated fairly. Do not try to conceal any assets; if it’s discovered you did so, the court can charge you with perjury, which is a criminal offense.

Usually, it’s a bad idea to commingle assets and property. For example, if you owned a house before getting married, but used marital income to pay taxes, mortgage or maintenance on that house, then you have commingled your assets, which means your ex-spouse now has a right to that asset.

At the start of a divorce, open an individual bank account. This will keep all future earnings from being deposited into the joint account. For the money that is already in the joint account, it will be distributed according to contribution by either spouse. If the separation is acrimonious, you may be worried about your spouse emptying all the funds in the joint account. There are three options to prevent this:

  1. Freeze all accounts – This ceases withdrawals, direct deposits and all spending without authorization. You’ll likely have to pay a fee to do this, but it’s worth that expense to protect the money you earned.
  2. Escrow account – An officer of the bank will be assigned to monitor the account, which is usually frozen until the funds can be properly divided.
  3. Withdraw – If you and your spouse have an agreement, you can withdraw half from the joint account and place it in a new individual account, leaving the joint one to become individual for your spouse.

The amount in your account, and the level of trust the two of you have with each other, will likely determine the option you and your spouse take. The main thing to remember is keep your assets separate once the proceedings start. A lawyer will ensure that your funds and other monetary assets remain yours.

Who Gets the House?

This is usually the most contentious asset in a divorce, especially if children are in the picture. Usually, the house will stay with the person who does the majority of the child-raising. If the house was purchased by you before the marriage, and your spouse’s name does not appear on any of the mortgage payments or ownership papers, the house could be included with your other separate assets, even if you don’t do the majority of child-rearing.

Unless it has actually occurred, never accuse your spouse of domestic violence just to get them removed from the home. If it’s discovered that you lied, this can lead to drastic legal consequences, not to mention the strong likelihood that you will lose any assets owned jointly.

A divorce can often create animosity between two people. Just protecting your own assets might lead to more arguments. Legally, your spouse has the same rights just described to you above, so understanding how a separation should proceed, and hiring a lawyer, can help ensure your assets come out of the divorce clean.

For more information on filing for a divorce, click here.