There are few parts of the divorce process as contentious as the property division stage. It can become even more stressful when large and important assets are in play, such as an inheritance that you may have recently received from a deceased family member. You might be wondering if you will be able to keep that inheritance, or if the court will give half or more of it to your soon-to-be ex-spouse.
Property division negotiations
The first thing to keep in mind is that the court does not necessarily have to divide your property for you. You and your spouse have the option of hiring attorneys, a mediator, or both, and negotiating your own divorce agreement according to the terms that you can agree on.
If you are unable to come to an agreement, and your divorce requires litigation before a divorce court, then the court will divide your property according to Tennessee’s property division statute.
Property division by the court
Courts in Tennessee make a distinction between marital and separate property. Courts will divide marital property, while they will allow each spouse to keep their respective separate property. In general, marital property is anything you or your spouse obtained during your marriage, while separate property is anything you had before getting married.
However, there are some important exceptions to the above classification – including inheritances. If you received an inheritance, the court will consider that inheritance to be your own separate property, even if you received it while you were married. Your inheritance will typically not be subject to division.
It’s important to note, however, that if you comingled your inheritance with your family funds, used it to pay marital debts, or otherwise treated it as shared and joint funds with your spouse, then the court may decide that the money – or things purchased with the money – should count as marital property, depending upon the circumstances.
Divorce is a contentious and stressful event, and it’s upsetting to lose so much of what you worked so hard to earn. At least you can rest assured that, in most cases, your inheritance will be safe from division by the court.