It may seem like an obvious statement, but a major part of divorce is dividing the assets of the spouses. In marital property states like Missouri, all the assets you acquire during your marriage belong to both spouses in the eyes of the law. This means that if you and your spouse divorce, the court will divide your marital assets in the most fair and equitable way possible.
You may want to take every precaution for protecting yourself financially in case your marriage comes to an end. You already know that divorce can create financial struggles, so you may want to keep your own assets separate from your spouse’s. However, some methods of protecting your wealth are much less effective than others.
Yours, mine and ours
The practice of keeping separate bank accounts is becoming more popular for married couples, especially those in their 20s and 30s. They may have a joint account for paying bills, or they may divide the bills between them and pay from their individual accounts. You and your spouse may plan to do the same rather than combining all your earnings in a joint account.
However, while this may seem like a solid method for protecting your personal income, the law may see your account as a marital asset that your spouse has a right to in a divorce. In an equitable distribution state, the court may determine that the money you have protected in your individual account is fair game, even if your spouse’s name is not on the account.
More effective alternatives
While it may provide you with some peace of mind and a bit of security if your spouse blocks your access to any joint funds, there is little protection from asset division when you keep separate bank accounts. The same may be true for putting the deed to your car or the title of your house in your name only. These are risky ways to try to protect your assets.
You may instead consider a prenuptial agreement or, if you are already married, a postnuptial contract that determines which assets are off the table in the event of a divorce. You can also protect any pre-marriage funds by keeping careful records of your account balances up to the day you marry. Any inheritances you receive during your marriage can remain your individual assets as long as you do not add them to a joint account or use them for the benefit of the family.
The possibility that your marriage will end in divorce is a reasonable concern. Because of this, it may not be enough to take the easy way of preparing yourself financially for the devastation of asset division. An attorney can offer options for protecting your wealth and your future.