There are different ways to establish a separate property claim. If you currently own a piece of real estate that you purchased prior to your marriage, you simply have to show the date you received the title. This is called the “Inception of Title Rule.” Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple.

Separate property may change form, be exchanged, or even sold during your marriage. This is when “tracing” is necessary. Tracing is the method used to determine your separate property when it may have changed throughout the marriage. Tracing follows the property throughout the marriage and can be thought of as connecting the dots. You begin with the separate property and then follow each transaction or change of property up until the time of divorce. By this process you can show that a different item is still your separate property at the time of divorce.

If you sold that piece of property after you married your spouse, and then purchased another property solely with the proceeds, this would likely keep its separate property nature. On the other hand, if you sold your property then deposited the funds into a bank account that you and your spouse own jointly, we would have to determine how much of the account was separate and how much of the account was community property. Sometimes, experts are required to help us determine these amounts.