What is the Difference Between Marital Property & Separate Property?

Posted by April Picozzi | Mar 23, 2018 | 0 Comments

In a divorce, there are many factors that need to be considered. One of the most commonly contested aspects of a divorce is the division of property, when spouses divide up their shared property. While this can sound straightforward, property division can actually be quite complex. One of the most frequently misunderstood—but most critical—factors of property division is the distinction between separate property and marital property. Not appropriately making this distinction can mean you may lose important property, investments, and other assets. Here's what you should know.


In short—any property that was acquired during the marriage is considered marital property, according to Rhode Island's divorce laws. Of course, it isn't quite this simple. Separate property can become marital property if spouses combine them in shared bank accounts, use them for shared purposes, or otherwise treat the property as shared.

Gifts given from one spouse to the other are considered marital property. Inherited property, however, is not considered marital property.


In Rhode Island, separate property is defined as property owned solely by one spouse in a marriage. This can include bank accounts, homes, vehicles, or assets owned before the marriage, and inherited property. This also can include professional licenses and advanced degrees, even if they were gained during the course of the marriage.

It is important to note that, while pre-relationship property is considered separate property, the appreciation or interest that is gained by the property during the marriage can be considered marital property. This means that your spouse may be entitled to part of this value, even if you keep the property.

Settlements from personal injury and car accident claims are another grey area when it comes to property division. The settlement amount for pain and suffering, future lost earnings, and reimbursement for future medical bills are considered separate property. The amount awarded for past medical bills and past lost wages for personal injury, premises liability, and workers' compensation claims are considered marital property. When it comes to workers' compensation claims, however, money awarded for disfigurement is considered separate property.


Property division laws are complex and can be challenging to understand. Mistakes, though, can cost you rightful property and assets. For this reason, it's critical to enlist the help of an experienced Rhode Island divorce lawyer, who can interpret these laws and apply them to your unique case. A judge will make their decision based on the information that has been presented, so it's important to make sure that this information is completely correct. Otherwise, you may lose valuable property that you legally should have been awarded.

At Inman & Tourgee, we put you first. You can trust that we will use our expertise and knowledge to find the best possible legal solutions for you. We can help you with every step of your divorce process, including the division of your marital property. Don't miss out on what is rightfully yours. Let our compassionate and skilled Rhode Island divorce attorneys assist your case today.

Call (401) 229-5521 to schedule a free consultation with our team.

About the Author

April Picozzi

PUBLIC ADJUSTER / OPERATIONS & FINANCE MANAGER April M. Picozzi joined the firm in 2013 as a licensed Independent Adjuster and legal assistant to Mark D. Tourgee, Esq. She handles all aspects of personal injury claims including client intake, maintaining client files, negotiating settlements and assi...


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