Question: Under Ohio law, is my spouse entitled to half of whatever I own as soon as we are married?
Answer: The short answer is no. The law recognizes that some property is separate and some is marital. Marital property is that property in which both spouses have an interest. Here are a few quick examples:
1. During your marriage, your long lost rich uncle dies and leaves in his will a bequest of $10,000 to you. You put the money in an account and think no more about it. The money accumulates interest. The $10,000 is now worth $15,000. You get divorced. The $10,000 is non-marital property because it was in inheritance. The $5,000 is also non-marital, as it is a result of passive interest accumulating (passive income).
2. Same fact scenario as above, except when you inherit the $10,000 you invest in stocks. You are very savvy and actively manage your portfolio, and the $10,000 turns into $20,000. You get divorced. The $10,000 is still non-marital because it is an inheritance. The additional $10,000 is marital because it is a result of your labor (active income).
3. You own a home with $50,000 in equity. You get married. You sell your home, and you and your new spouse purchase a new home, using your $50,000 as the down payment. You get divorced. At the time of divorce, the home now has $60,000 in equity based on the down payment plus mortgage payments. $50,000 is yours off the top because it is non-marital – you are able to trace the equity you accrued prior to the marriage to the down payment on the marital residence. The remaining $10,000 in equity is marital, as it is a result of payments made on the mortgage during the marriage. This equity is divided in the divorce.
4. You own a home outright worth $120,000. You get married. You and your spouse do improvements on the home, which increases the value by $20,000. You get divorced. $120,000 in equity is pre-marital separate property of yours. $20,000 in equity is marital, and is divided by the court.
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