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How to protect the home that you owned before you got married

Maybe you received an early inheritance because your parents died unexpectedly. Perhaps you experienced career success early in life that allows you to generously provide for yourself. Whatever the cause, if you own your own house outright prior to marriage, you may want to take some steps now to protect your ownership of that property.

Depending on your circumstances, there may be a number of ways for you to protect your property and prevent your spouse from claiming a portion of its value if you get divorced.

If you haven’t married yet, consider a prenuptial agreement

Prenuptial agreements are increasingly popular legal documents that protect both spouses in the event that a marriage fails. One of the many things that you can do in a prenuptial agreement is decide how you want to split up your property in the event of a divorce and specifically earmark certain assets as separate property not subject to division.

Drafting a prenuptial agreement that designates your home as your separate property in the event of a divorce will ensure that your spouse can’t take what you paid for prior to marriage.

During marriage, keep things separate

In theory, inheriting a property or owning it outright prior to marriage means that that house is already your separate property. However, commingling is a real risk, especially when it comes to real estate owned by only one spouse.

Covering all of the costs associated with the maintenance of your home through an account funded prior to your marriage can help avoid the risk of commingling. You also likely want to avoid adding your spouse to the deed or to any mortgage instruments secured by the property. If your spouse contributes financially to the maintenance of the house, ranging from remodeling to taxes, they may be able to claim a portion of the property’s value in the divorce.

If you want to divorce, consider working with your spouse to protect the house

Collaborative divorce can be a way for you and your spouse to work together to establish your own rules and terms. Filing an uncontested divorce can allow you to maintain total control over the property division process. You may have to make certain concessions in order to get your spouse to give up an attempt to claim the property, but direct negotiations can sometimes facilitate a positive outcome.