Many Times, clients will come to me and they will bring to me a common problem,

They will say that I owned my house before I was married. Do I have to share my house with my spouse in the event I get divorced?  What they are actually is, in a general sense, if I own property before I get married does my new spouse have any right to that property?

The answer is it depends a great deal upon the facts.

The short answer is any property that you owned going into the marriage is presumptively separate property meaning it’s yours and your spouse does not have any entitlement to it. There are, however, things that you can do after you are married with that property, that could change whether or not your spouse has an interest in the property or potentially an interest in the appreciation of that property. For example with a bank account, if you transfer your separate property from a separate account into a joint account with your spouse, that could make the property marital. So even if you have separate property going into your marriage you could change that property depending on what you do with it.  If you own a home before you get married, there are certain things that you might do with that house for example, doing construction, adding bedrooms and bathrooms and using marital funds to pay for that which could result in your new spouse having an interest in the house you brought into the marriage.  Additionally, there are other more complicated issues involving payments of mortgages, taxes and ongoing expenses, all of which can create problems in keeping separate property from becoming marital property.

It is essential to understand the issues surrounding property that you had before you were married.  They are many actions you can take which can be significant in whether your new spouse has a right to that property or not.  It is very fact sensitive analysis and that’s why it’s important to meet with competent counsel and secure good, effective and useful legal advice