Understanding the difference between marital and separate property in Colorado

When dividing property in a Colorado divorce case, people need to know the difference between marital and separate property.

Property division may be one of the most difficult topics to resolve during a Colorado divorce. There are a myriad of accounts, estates, vehicles and other things that are eligible for division when people decide to dissolve their marriage. Colorado separates property and assets in a fair and equitable fashion after carefully considering key factors in the divorce case, according to the American Bar Association. Although not all property and assets qualify for distribution, there are items that some people may not recognize as marital property.

Keeping ahold of separate property

In most cases, separate property cannot be divided in a divorce settlement, according to Forbes. Generally speaking, property and/or assets are considered separate if they are owned by a party prior to the marriage. Any type of inheritance or gift given to a spouse before, during or after the marriage is labeled separate property.

There are some situations where separate property may become marital property, and therefore, eligible for division. For example, if one spouse bought a home prior to the marriage, the value of the property may increase during the course of the marriage. When the marriage is terminated, the other spouse may be entitled to a portion of that increased value.

Defining marital property

The General Assembly of the State of Colorado defines marital property as all assets and property accumulated by the couple during the course of the marriage. This holds true regardless of whether the property title is held jointly or just under one spouse's name. Not only does this rule apply to property, it also applies to life insurance policies, stocks, pensions, trusts, retirement benefits, workers' compensation benefits and other types of financial accounts.

According to Forbes, there are some assets that may be considered marital, but often go overlooked by couples during a stressful divorce. These include:

  • Valuable collections, such as wine, art, coins or vintage cars
  • Horses, cows or other types of animals
  • 401K plans, retirement accounts, stock and compensation from current and previous employers
  • Memberships to country clubs, golf courses or other elite organizations
  • Patents, trademarks, royalties and copyrights
  • Winnings from a lottery ticket purchased during the marriage

Couples should keep in mind that any money that was loaned out throughout the marriage can be divided once that money is repaid.

Streamline the legal process

Making critical financial decisions that can potentially affect the rest of your life can be difficult when your emotions are running high. An attorney in Colorado may be able to help you make clear and sound choices when creating a divorce settlement. Not only will they walk you through the divorce process, but an attorney may be able to ensure you get everything you deserve.

Keywords: divorce, property, division, marital, separate