Couples who have accrued significant assets during their marriage often discover that the property settlement segment of the divorce is quite complex.

One issue that bogs down the process is when separately owned assets get commingled with marital assets. This can cause the separate asset — or a portion thereof — to become a marital asset, and subject to the asset division laws of Rhode Island.

This understandably can cause some chagrin during a divorce, which is why it is better to allow separate assets and resources to clearly remain so. Below are some common examples of separate property.

— Anything owned by the parties before they got married.

— Gifts to one spouse from a third party, e.g., your father gave you expensive guns from his collection.

— Money or property inherited by either spouse.

— Payments for pain and suffering in personal injury settlements or judgments.

So just how can separate property become marital property? Any number of ways, but consider these scenarios:

— Your father dies and leaves you his share of a hunting lodge, which you sell for $20,000. Instead of keeping those funds separate, you deposit it into the marital account.

— You add your wife’s name to the deed of the house you owned prior to the marriage.

Because of the complexity of determining which assets are separate and which are marital when there have been incidences of commingling, you may need to retain an appraiser who can pinpoint the exact date the asset transferred from separate to marital property. Doing so can ensure that all property is correctly valuated.

Source: Forbes, “Understanding How Assets Get Divided In Divorce,” Jeff Landers, accessed June 02, 2017