Among the many topics you’ll need to address in your divorce, property division is one of the most important. It’s helpful to understand how the distribution of assets works in Wisconsin and how the law handles separate property owned by individual spouses.
Almost all property can be distributed in a divorce, from personal property to real estate. Some common examples of property that is often subject to distribution among spouses in a divorce include:
- Marital home
- Vacation homes
- Rental property
- Home furnishings
- Motor vehicles
- Bank accounts
- Stocks and bonds
- Retirements assets
The property available for distribution and how it is divided are unique to every divorce case.
In equitable distribution states, property is divided in a way that is equitable, or fair, based on the circumstances. In community property states like Wisconsin, marital property is typically divided equally between spouses.
When dividing property in a divorce, it’s critical to differentiate between marital property and separate property.
Marital property is acquired during the life of the marriage. It doesn’t matter whether the property is acquired by one spouse alone or by both spouses together.
Separate property, on the other hand, is property belonging to one spouse alone that was acquired prior to the marriage. Additionally, property given to a spouse as a gift or an inheritance is usually separate property, regardless of whether it was acquired before or during the marriage.
Marital property is typically subject to distribution among spouses, whereas separate property remains with the respective spouse and cannot be divided.
Keeping property separate and away from your divorce requires some proof that the property is separate. For example, you could present a deed to a house in your name alone, acquired before the date of your legal marriage.
Separate property can become marital property, and if a judge feels property has become marital, it could be subject to division. In order to prevent this, it’s important not to mix separate and marital assets. For example, taking inheritance money and depositing it into a shared bank account would make it marital funds.
Additionally, a judge could consider separate property marital property if the non-owner spouse significantly contributes to the improvement of said property. If, for example, you own a business prior to marriage and your spouse contributes to the growth and success of your business, it could make this separate property turn into marital property.
Absent any intervening factors that could potentially turn the separate property into marital property in the eyes of the law, judges in Wisconsin courts leave the separate property alone and only focus on the marital property for asset division purposes.
Property division is one of the most important matters to address during a divorce. A qualified divorce lawyer can help ensure your separate property remains in your sole possession and that you get what you’re entitled to receive.