One of the most misunderstood aspects regarding separation and divorce proceedings is property division and what exactly is each spouse entitled to. It can be rather complicated depending on the type of property and assets you own, but let's say you want to buy a new home on your own after you are already going through divorce proceedings. Does your spouse still own half? The answer is no in most cases.
What Assets Get Divided?
During divorce proceedings, all assets that are mutually owned, such as the marital home – the house you bought together and lived in together, will either have to be sold with the proceeds divided equally, or one spouse must buy out the other. This will vary in each state, as the laws regarding this are different, so check with your own state, but typically most states agree on this matter.
Other assets that get divided are joint bank accounts, businesses in which both spouses are owners, and even rental properties. You can work out an agreement just like with the marital property in which one buys the other out, or you may decide to pick and choose which assets go to whom. Your lawyer can help you decide how to fairly divide these assets.
The House You Buy on Your Own
When you buy a house completely on your own, with no input at all from your spouse, as long as it's during divorce proceedings or when you are separated, they have no claim on that property at all. This is considered separate property. Each state has their own laws governing separate property, so ask your lawyer how this will apply in your state.
Separate property can include any property you already own prior to your marriage. This includes any inheritance received before or after marriage, any gifts either of you received of value such as jewelry, and any financial compensation due to legal cases such a personal injury judgments. It also refers to any property you purchase during the separation or divorce phase of your marriage.
However, this property may be changed in status from a separate property to a marital one if you both live on the property for an extended period or if you add your spouse's name to the deed as co-owner. If you do buy a house during your marriage (not during separation or divorce) and only your name is on the deed as owner, your spouse will most likely be considered as co-owner regardless of if their name is on the deed.