Each spouse starts with a claim to half of all the property, including assets and liabilities, in the name(s) of that couple except for:
- A gift from someone else to just one spouse;
- The inheritance of just one spouse;
- Property (assets and liabilities) owned by just one spouse before the marriage;
- A court-ordered amount or settlement amount for injuries to just one spouse; and
- Insurance money for injuries to just one spouse.
These kinds of property are called “exempt property”. If any of the exempt property is voluntarily put into non-exempt property (for example, if a spouse puts their inheritance toward the purchase of a jointly owned home), the spouse may lose some of the value of their exemption. Also, if the exempt property increases in value after they marry or acquire the property, that increase is not exempt (for example, if one spouse owned a home before the marriage, the increase in the equity of that home during the marriage can be divided between the spouses when they separate).
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