Couples going through divorce often find things to argue about that can make the entire process more difficult and expensive. Financial assets, such as retirement accounts or stocks, are a common source of contention for people ending their marriage. The more significant the asset, the more likely it is that both spouses will want to retain it or have a share of the asset.

Under Ohio law, most assets a couple acquires during marriage are subject to division, unless they have a prenuptial agreement stating otherwise. In typical cases, assets acquired during the marriage get divided by the courts because they are marital property, partially owned by each spouse.

That classification of marital property extends to everything you own that is subject to division by the courts, from income to retirement accounts, and even the interest and dividends on stocks and bonds. If you owned stock prior to marriage, you may wonder what your rights are regarding that property as you divorce. The answer is a complex one, with much open to interpretation.

The date of purchase will impact your rights to assets

As a general rule, anything you purchase or acquired during your marriage becomes marital property. Unless you purchase stock during your marriage with separate property, such as an inheritance or assets you owned prior to marriage that did not get commingled with household assets, whatever you acquire while married will likely wind up split in the divorce.

The way that the courts will handle assets you owned prior to marriage is substantially more complicated. The first issue to address is whether you commingle those assets and accounts with marital assets. If you only have one investment account that you share with your spouse and you chose to move pre-existing investments into that shared account, the courts will likely consider that commingling.

Commingling of separate property renders it marital property and, thus, subject to division. If you maintained those assets separate from any marital investments or stocks, the actual value of the stocks may remain separate and protected from division in a divorce. However, any interest or dividends that you received during your marriage may be subject to division.

An attorney is critical when you have complicated assets

The greater the overall value of your assets and the more complicated they are, the more important it is that you work with an experienced attorney for your divorce. There are no truly straightforward answers when it comes to dividing assets in divorce.

Many different outcomes are possible, and it is difficult to predict how the courts will rule in any given situation as there are so many unique factors in play. Discussing your situation with an experienced divorce attorney is a first step toward protecting your financial interests in a divorce.