Gregg E. Bradshaw, LLC

Understanding how commingled assets work in marriage and divorce

Commingling everything has long been the American model of marriage. When a couple gets married, they share a house, cars, and bank accounts. The complete commingling model is often done for practical reasons as well as symbolic ones.

But part of that model may be changing. Millennials are increasingly choosing not to share bank accounts after marriage. According to a national survey, 28 percent of married millennials have chosen to keep separate bank accounts after tying the knot. One of the reasons for this trend is that many millennials were children or divorce. As such, they want to maintain some financial independence in case their marriages also end in divorce.

Unfortunately for them, separate bank accounts are not an effective way to maintain separate assets in divorce. Washington is a community property state, meaning that nearly all assets acquired during the marriage are considered to belong equally to both spouses. In the event of divorce, the money kept in all accounts would essentially be pooled and divided in half (absent unique circumstances that might cause a judge to deviate from this formula).

One of the only reliable ways to keep separate assets separate is with a prenuptial agreement. These are very useful tools, but it is important to know that they generally apply only to pre-marital assets. Assets that get commingled after marriage generally become community property.

Property division can be complex. For this and other reasons, it is a good idea to speak with an experienced family law attorney to get a better sense of your rights and options.

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