When you are preparing for a divorce, it can be hard to know what belongs to you or your spouse. After all, you’ve built your family’s assets over the course of the marriage. You may not have been keeping track of whose property is whose. If you don’t even know which items are yours, how do Colorado courts divide property in divorce actions?
This blog will discuss the rules affecting how Colorado courts divide property in divorce actions. It will explain what happens to a couple’s assets and debts, and what property will be set aside for one spouse or the other. It will also discuss how an attorney can help create strategies to protect your most important assets.
What Property Gets Divided in a Divorce?
Colorado law gives family court judges overseeing the divorce the authority to divide the “marital property” of the parties. That generally includes everything you or your spouse bought, earned, or were given after the date of the marriage. Everything else is “separate property” of one spouse or the other, and is automatically awarded to that party. Before you start working on who will get what property, you and your Colorado divorce attorney will need to decide what (if anything) qualifies as separate property, and what marital property exists to be divided by the court.
What About Property You Owned Before You Got Married?
Property owned by one party prior to the marriage is the most common type of separate property. For example, If a man moved into his girlfriend’s home, they got married and then later file for divorce, the house will be awarded to the wife as her separate property.
This rule applies even if the original item is traded during the marriage. If the husband owned a car before the marriage and traded it in for a new one during the marriage, that replacement may still be considered separate property during the divorce.
However, what happens to separate property during the marriage can sometimes turn it marital. If husband and wife refinance her home together to pay for a renovation, or if the husband puts money in to pay off the mortgage, he may convert some part of the value into marital property to be divided by the court.
What About Inheritance or Gifts?
Generally, funds or items received by one party as a gift or inheritance are treated as the separate property of the person receiving it. Gifts between spouses can sometimes qualify as separate property as well. However, if a spouse titles the gift in both names (including putting money into a shared bank account), it may become marital property.
What About Assets in Only Your Name?
The way a property is titled doesn’t generally affect whether it will be divided by the court as part of the divorce. Retirement accounts, vehicles, and even homes are often in only one spouse’s name. However, if they are earned or purchased during the marriage, they will be part of the property division.
How Do Colorado Courts Divide Property?
Once you add up the values of all the marital property in your case, it will be up to you, your attorney, and the judge to decide how it will be divided among the parties. Colorado courts will divide property “equitably”. That means the judge must do what is fair. Often that means each spouse gets about half the assets, but sometimes one side can get more or less, based on certain factors:
- The contributions (financial and otherwise) each spouse made to acquiring the marital property
- The value of separate property given to each spouse
- The economic circumstances of the spouses (including their abilities to earn or recoup losses)
- The debt assigned to each spouse in the divorce
- The changes in value of separate property, and if it was used for marital purposes.
What About When Your Spouse Caused the Divorce?
Colorado is a “no fault divorce” state. That means you don’t have to claim anything went wrong to get a divorce. It also means the Colorado court will divide property without considering what either spouse did wrong during the marriage.
What About Property You Bought After You Separated?
Divorce doesn’t always follow immediately after separation, but marital property usually includes everything bought from the date of the marriage until the day the dissolution of marriage is final. If you bought a new house when you moved out of the family home, or your retirement portfolio increased during the years you were separated, you may find your spouse is entitled to a share of those assets unless the court has entered a legal separation order.
What About When The Kids Want to Stay in the Home?
For many families, the biggest property division question is who will get to keep the house. Colorado law specifically allows a family law judge to consider awarding the family home to the spouse with whom the children will live most of the time. That way the children get to stay in the home where they grew up.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Property in Divorce?
Deciding what is fair when Colorado courts divide property in divorce isn’t always easy, or straight-forward. If you hope to protect your home, keep your retirement accounts, or have other priorities in dividing the marital property, you will need the help of an experienced divorce attorney who can help you consider your priorities and make a plan to protect your property.
At Aviso Law, LLC, our divorce lawyers understand that divorce can be financially devastating if you don’t get a fair property division. We are here to serve you and your family. We will help you understand the law, the process, and what you will need to support yourself and your family after the dissolution of marriage is over. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.