When a marriage comes to an end, there must be a division of the assets that have been accumulated during the marriage. Generally speaking, states take one of two approaches when dealing with the division of marital assets. The more common of the approaches, and the approach taken by the state of Colorado, is “equitable distribution.”
The concept of equitable distribution is exactly what it sounds like. The property in a marriage is not divided equally between the parties but in a manner that is fair, given a number of different factors. Before a court gets to the division of marital assets, however, the court must first determine what constitutes a marital asset and what is the individual property of the parties.
Marital Assets in Colorado
In Colorado, the general rule is that property owned by either party before entering into the marriage remains the individual property of that party. All jointly held property is marital property. In addition, even an increase of value in individual property during the marriage can be considered marital property, depending on the circumstances.
For example, in the recent case in front of the Colorado Court of Appeals, In re Marriage of Krejci, a wife and husband owned their home together. The home had a mortgage on it. As an advance on the wife’s inheritance, the wife’s mother paid off the couple’s mortgage completely, increasing the home’s value. During subsequent divorce proceedings, the wife claimed that the increase in the home’s value was her separate property because it came as a gift from her mother.
The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that in a Colorado divorce there is a presumption that any increase in an asset’s value that occurs during the marriage is to be counted as a marital asset. The Court then sent the case back down to the trial court for it to determine whether the wife was able to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the mother’s payment of the couple’s mortgage was meant to be a gift to the wife alone.
The message to be take from In re Marriage of Krejci is that the determination of what is a marital asset is not always an easy one. Sometimes a skilled attorney can turn what initially seems like an individual asset into a marital asset through clever argument. Don’t be caught off guard by your spouse’s attorney.
Are You Involved in a Colorado Divorce Proceeding?
If you are currently involved in a divorce, or you are contemplating filing for divorce, consult with an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible. In the highly charged atmosphere of most divorces, few things are certain. Be sure that you are prepared and that you get what you deserve at the conclusion of your divorce. With over 50 years of combined experience, the dedicated Denver area family law attorneys at Plog & Stein, P.C. have the knowledge and experience you need to feel comfortable during this uncertain time. Call 303-781-0322 to schedule a consultation session today.