Before you got married, your spouse bought their own home. You moved in after the marriage and lived there for ten years. It’s safe to say that you think of it as your home.
However, you’re now getting a divorce, and your spouse claims that the home is separate property because they bought it before the marriage. Is this true, or did your home become marital property along the way?
How did you pay the mortgage and other bills?
First of all, how did you go about paying the bills? Did you use marital funds to do so? For instance, maybe you and your spouse have a joint bank account and both of your paychecks are deposited into it automatically. Your mortgage payments are automatically withdrawn. This means that at least a portion of your earnings were being used to pay that mortgage, which can turn the home into marital property, even if your spouse got the mortgage loan prior to your marriage.
Did you remodel or refinance?
Similarly, maybe you refinanced your home and added your name to the title, lowering the payments or freeing up money from the equity in the house. If you did so, the house could also have become marital property. You were part of the refinance and you are now on the title, so the house is yours in a way it never was before.
A related issue is if you used the money from the refinance to remodel your home — or if you used other marital funds to do so. Again, the home may have started off in your spouse’s name, but you have clearly put your own money into it in these ways, and that can change the status of the house. You may deserve a portion of the value of the home in the divorce.
Working through a complicated process
If you and your spouse are already disagreeing about things like this, the whole property division process may get complicated. It could grow contentious. It is very important to learn as much as you can about the options you have. The more you understand about your rights, the more you can do to protect those rights.