Holding onto physical evidence of ownership of a certain thing can be tedious, but as you’re about to see, for those who’ve decided to file for divorce, it’s essential. The reason: competing doctrines of “community property” and “50/50 splits.” Before getting into the heart of this post, let’s define the two aspects of your divorce papers.
1. Community Property
If you live in what they call a “community property” state, then technically things you owned prior to the marriage are yours free and clear after the divorce. Only things that you accumulated during the marriage are to be split 50/50.
2. 50/50 Split
That is, half of all marital assets (and debts) are split down the middle and handed off to both parties in a divorce.
In a perfect world, living in a community property state would require no further action, but here’s the thing about settling your divorce forms. What is “yours” can only be determined by what you can prove. Unfortunately, many people tend to put away receipts on most purchases after a year or so of keeping them. You start to take your ownership of that item — whatever it is — for granted, and that makes it easier for your spouse to claim half ownership of the asset in a divorce.
So what’s a person to do?
Well, luckily, for many items these days, proof of purchase is kept electronically and with some legwork can be tracked down. If you can prove the date of purchase and that date precedes the marriage, then you may be able to keep the full worth of the asset. However, one additional thing to keep in mind is this: if that asset has appreciated in value during the marriage, then half of that appreciation could be divided evenly in the court. Thus, if you want to keep that rare set of books or baseball card collection, you’ll need to find a way of buying your spouse out of it or reaching a mutual agreement to make up the difference somewhere else in the settlement.
The important thing is to not lose one’s cool during negotiations and to think of viable alternatives for reaching a satisfactory divorce settlement.