Divorce: Non-Marital Property Can Change ("Transmute") into Marital Property

hand giving keysThese days there are many marriages where each spouse came into the marriage with their own individually-owned "non-marital" property (for example, a house) - and even some property acquired during the marriage can be considered "non-marital property."   Under Ohio divorce law, this non-marital property is called "separate property."  For the most part, "separate property" is not subject to division by the divorce court - so many parties assert that an item of property is or is not separate property.  A divorce statute specifically lists what is "separate property" - and that list is generally: (1) inherited property, (2) property owned by a spouse before a marriage, (3) personal injury monies recovered by a spouse (other than for loss of earnings), and (4) a "gift" given solely to one spouse. Even if a certain piece of property was, without much dispute, "separate property" at one time, that item of property can lose its classification as "separate property" if that item of property is "transmutted" (i.e. transformed) into "marital property" because (1)  the parties "commingled" the "separate property" with "marital property" and (2) it is difficult or impossible to "trace" the separate property out of the marital property.

So, as much as marital bliss can clog the mind, parties should be careful about commingling separate property with marital property unless they specifically choose to do so - knowing the consequences.