When you get divorced, not every piece of property is divided between the parties. Courts make a distinction between separate property and community property. Generally, community property is divided equitably between the spouses during a divorce. This often includes a home purchased by the parties, a car purchased by the parties, joint bank accounts, etc. Separate property, on the other hand, is generally not divided because it is not marital property.

Separate property is typically assets owned prior to getting married or you acquired them as a gift or inheritance during the marriage. So, for example, the car you bought and paid for prior to the marriage would likely be considered separate property.  However, there are circumstances where separate property can transform, or “transmute,” into marital property subject to equitable division during a divorce.

Transmutation of Separate Property to Marital Property

Transmutation of separate property means it was converted into community property. Transmutation can be done through agreement between the parties, by gift from one spouse to another, or by commingling the separate property with community property so much so that it can no longer be considered separate property. So, for example, if you bought and paid for a car prior to the marriage, but your spouse used the car regularly during the course of the marriage and helped pay for maintenance on the vehicle, an argument could be made that the vehicle was transmuted into marital property.

Watch Out for Equitable Reimbursement

Even if you successfully argue that your separate property has not been transmuted, there is the issue of equitable reimbursement. Using the car example again, if your spouse paid for upgrades to the vehicle such as a navigation system, sunroof, new speakers, etc. and the value of the vehicle increased then they may have an equitable right to reimbursement for the enhanced value of the property.

Contact an Experienced Tempe Divorce Attorney

In every divorce, the process of asset allocation and division can raise very challenging issues in what may seem at first blush to be a simple listing of “His, Hers, and Ours.” That is why you need the experienced counsel of a Tempe divorce lawyer. The Law Office of Ronald L. Kossack is here to help. We work toward a peaceful resolution whenever possible, but if your case cannot be settled, we are prepared to litigate your case aggressively and efficiently in an Arizona court. To speak with a Tempe family law attorney, contact us online or by calling 480-345-2652.