Is an Individual Bank Account Considered Joint Property in a Divorce?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

Is an Individual Bank Account Considered Joint Property in a Divorce?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

If you want to know whether or not an individual bank account is considered joint property in a divorce, the answer to this is not a simple yes or no. While this may not be particularly satisfying, there is no clear answer to such a general question. The factors a court will look to include whether or not the account is funded with non-marital property and how the account was used during the course of the marriage.

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Marital Property and Non-Marital Property: Understanding the Difference

There are two types of property in marital and divorce law: marital property and non-marital property. Marital property is generally property acquired during the marriage. It includes a person's salary, bonuses, and tips as well as homes, art, jewelry, and household goods purchased during the marriage. This is true even if the property was bought with one person in mind, such as an automobile. The exception to marital property here relates to inheritances and gifts. If a person, while married, inherits property or money or is gifted property or money, it is considered non-marital property.

Other non-marital property includes property each person owned before entering into the marriage. However, depending on how the property is used during the marriage, it can convert from non-marital to marital property. For example, if a person owns a home prior to getting married, that piece of real estate is considered non-marital property. If, however, the couple lives in that home, makes joint payments on the mortgage, and contribute to home improvements, then it can convert from non-marital to marital property. Similarly, if someone comes into the marriage with an individual bank account, but then begins using the account to pay common household bills, vacation expenses, and the like, the account becomes marital property or joint property. The difference between marital and non-marital property often depends on whether or not the parties comingled funds or otherwise used the property or bank account for a joint, marital purpose.

Dividing Property in a Divorce

How the court divides the property of the marriage depends first on what state you live in. Community property states divide all property of the marriage equally. States that are not community property states divide marital property based on equitable division, not to be confused with equal division of property. In either case, the starting point for dividing property is identifying marital property because non-marital property is not subject to division in divorce. Instead, the owner simply retains that property.

Oftentimes, the issue of whether a divorce is complicated or easy is dependent more on the attitudes of the married couple than the complexity of the issues. If you and your spouse are in agreement about the division of property and debts, the custody of the children, child support, and alimony, you can probably get your divorce without protracted litigation or expensive lawyers. An uncontested divorce is an option for couples who already agree on how to settle their case.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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