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You and your spouse may want to get divorced. You’re not sure yet. You decide to try a legal separation first. Does this have an impact on your marital property?

It absolutely can. Many people split up their property when they separate, even if they’re married. Say you both signed on the loan to buy a car, for instance, but your spouse uses it to go to work. They may want to keep that car and transfer it into their name. You can also split up your bank accounts, your day-to-day assets and much more. If you do end up eventually getting divorced, there may not be that much left to argue about when it comes to your property.

Another way that separation helps is if you buy any additional property after you separate. Say your spouse gets the car. You now need a second car to go to work, so you buy one. Technically, you’re married, and something like a car may ordinarily be a joint asset. However, since you’re separated, everything that you each buy after that date of separation is a separate asset. You own it and your spouse cannot claim it as a joint asset when the divorce rolls around.

Things can get complicated if you get back together, though. You can commingle the assets that you gained while separated, and they then become joint assets again. If you get divorced later, you’ll need to divide them with the marital property rules in mind.

You can see how complex a situation like this may become. Make sure you know what legal steps you can take to protect what you own.