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5 critical things to know about your finances during divorce

Divorce can be messy and complicated, and it's crucial that you know where you stand financially so that you get your fair share. With complex, high-asset divorces, this importance reaches a new level. Below are five things you must know moving forward.

Commingling assets can make them shared assets

The line between separate property and marital property can be confusing, especially when assets are combined. In some cases, this makes an asset that could have been yours alone into a marital asset to which both you and your spouse have a claim. For instance, if your grandmother passes away and leaves you $500,000 and then you drop it into the joint bank account you share with your spouse, using it to make purchases and pay bills, your spouse can argue that your assets have been commingled and are now owned by both of you.

Gifts can be separate property

Gifts that are made directly to one person or the other - and not to you both as a couple - can be considered separate property. The same is true of inheritances that are not commingled. However, this typically involves noncash assets, such as family heirlooms. If your mother gives you a gold necklace or your father gives you an antique gun collection, for instance, you can argue that those assets are yours alone and should stay in the family.

A 50/50 split is not guaranteed

This is one of the most common misconceptions about divorce. In community property states, assets are to be divided evenly in half. However, Florida is not a community property state. The split is supposed to be "fair," but it doesn't have to be even.

The name on the account often doesn't matter

One of the most common mistakes people make is thinking they can't claim an asset that is in a spouse's name. For instance, a man may think he has no claim on his wife's pension because her employer only has her name on the paperwork. This isn't true. Many things such as bank accounts and retirement plans can count as joint assets even when only one spouse has his or her name on the account.

Increases in value are important

Many assets decrease in value, but some - like land - could go up. It's critical to know that you may be entitled to some of this increase. For example, even if your spouse owned land before you got married, if he or she used your paychecks in part to make those monthly payments - just drawing the money out of your joint bank account - then you may be able to claim a portion of the increased value, even if the land itself never belonged to you. Your money was used to retain ownership and was thus invested in the land, and you have a claim to that investment.

Getting every cent

The most important thing to take from this is that you should never make assumptions or overlook assets. You may have a claim to far more than you think during divorce, and you need to know all of your options to ensure that the division of assets really is equitable and fair.

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