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How Can I Keep My Non-Marital Property Safe?

Divorce can be one of the most financially devastating things that can happen to a person.  If you are going into a divorce with a significant amount of property or assets, it is very important that you understand how to keep your separate property safe so that you do not end up losing what is yours in the event that the marriage ends in divorce.

There are a number of different ways that you can protect your property and ensure that it will stay with you even after you are no longer married.  The best solution for most people is to speak with an experienced divorce and family law attorney who can advise them on their options for protecting their assets.

How to Keep Separate Property Safe

In an ideal situation, you will take formal legal steps prior to marriage in order to protect your separate property. The single best thing that you can do is to create an enforceable prenuptial or premarital agreement that you and your spouse both sign. The agreement should detail exactly what property belongs to you and what happens to that property in the event the marriage doesn’t work. The agreement must be in writing and you must fulfill all state requirements to ensure it is enforceable, so it is a good idea to get legal help to ensure that the prenuptial agreement is valid and is sufficiently protective of your property.

If you are already married and you didn’t create a prenup before you and your spouse said “I do,” you can still take steps to contractually protect your separate property. You can do this by creating and signing a post-marital agreement. This is very similar to a prenuptial agreement but it is created after the marriage. Ideally, if you are able to create this agreement when your spouse are happy and communicating well, you won’t have the problems that you’d have in trying to negotiate a divorce settlement and keep your property.

Of course, your spouse may not agree to a post-marital agreement. If you don’t have a contract in place and you decide to divorce, then you will either need to negotiate a divorce settlement to try to keep your property or you can go to court and you’ll need to show the judge that the property is separate property that you owned before marriage and that you did not mix or co-mingle with marital assets.

To ensure that the judge actually treats your property as separate during a divorce, you should be sure to actually keep it separate throughout the course of your marriage. This includes both property that you had prior to the wedding as well as money that you inherit that is left only to you.  Do not add your spouse’s name to the accounts and keep the property separate from assets you have together so there is no question that the property is yours and yours alone.