Couples often maintain separate bank accounts during a marriage. It can be a good way to prevent arguments over money and allows you each to maintain your own finances while also contributing to the household finances. However, it is not an ideal way to protect your money if you end up in divorce court.

CNBC explains that it is a mistake to think that the court will consider a bank account as separate property because it is in your name only. The classification and division of property do not work that way in a divorce.

Marital or separate

When you obtained the property is key to whether the court will define it as marital or separate. If you opened your bank account before your marriage, then there is a higher chance it is separate property. However, there is a second part of the definition.

The court looks at how you treated your property during the marriage. If you contributed to the account with money you earn during your marriage only and used the money only for your own expenses, then you may be safe. But, if you ever put money into that account that came from sources aside from your earnings, its separate status is at risk. It may also become marital property rather than separate property if you use money from the account to fund marital activities or purchases. Once you commingle separate property with marital property, the court is less likely to maintain the separation.

Property division

During the process of equitable distribution, the courts can divide anything as long as the judge determines that it is fair. So, he or she may find that some of your property, even if it is separate, will go to your spouse to ensure fair distribution of assets and protect the standard of living you each enjoyed during the marriage. Ultimately, you may not have full protection over anything you feel is separate property.