How to save your assets in divorce

Divorce is difficult enough when two spouses with high-running emotions realise their marriage is falling apart. Things can get worse, even downright nasty, when exes start battling to the death over money, assets, and the marital home. Some spouses will fight to get everything they can get, whether it is rightfully theirs or not, out of sheer spite. This is why many of those preparing to split look for ways to save their assets in a divorce.

Identify and separate any assets, including money, property, jewellery, and other items, that you individually received as a gift. Anything that you received yourself, such as birthday gifts, Christmas presents, awards and recognitions, and similar items, do not belong to the marriage - including gifts your spouse gave to you. You are entitled to save these assets in the divorce from division. Store these somewhere other than in your marital home, if you and your spouse are still sharing the residence.

Identify and separate any family heirlooms that were passed down to you from your relatives. Even if these items were given to you and your spouse jointly, most states have ruled that heirlooms should stay in the original family after a divorce. Keep these with a family member for safekeeping until the divorce is completed.

Withdraw and keep any money in any bank account that you hold separately from your spouse. While joint bank accounts are subject to division, regardless of who deposited money and in what amounts, individual accounts are considered separate from the marriage and are not subject to division. To save your assets from being accessed by your spouse, it is a good idea (and perfectly within your rights) to remove any money you have in separate accounts and keep it elsewhere until the divorce has been finalised.

Gather and organise any financial and legal documents you have that can demonstrate your claim to any assets you believe belong to you and not to the marriage. Bank statements, property transfers records, titles and deeds, even things like Christmas and birthday cards that were attached to gifts you received can show the family court judge that these assets are yours and yours alone.

Revoke any legal instruments that give your spouse rights or control over any of your assets. Power of attorney, living wills, and other such documents may give your spouse grounds for trying to claim ownership of your assets. You can revoke such instruments by stating your intentions to end them immediately in writing and providing your spouse with the dated and signed document. Be sure to keep a copy for your own records so you can bring it with you to court, if necessary.


Items that you received as a jointly with your spouse, like wedding gifts, anniversary gifts, and similar items, belong to the marriage and thus, must be equally divided between you. You cannot remove or claim ownership of any jointly owned assets until you are awarded them through property division. Heirlooms that belong to your spouse must be returned to him, including items like a wedding or engagement ring that was given to you, as they belong to his family.


Do not remove any money from, attempt to "clean out," or close any bank accounts you hold jointly with your spouse. Not only can she ask the judge to order you to return every penny, the judge can also find you in contempt for attempting to take money that is not rightfully yours. If you received an inheritance, lottery winnings, or any other sums of money that were explicitly for you, it is typically your money only and not subject to asset division. However, if you deposited the money into a joint bank account or into your spouse's account, used it to purchase items for both of your enjoyment (including household effects, vacations, or real estate) or commingled the money with marital assets in any other way, you have effectively given up all claim to the money and it is now considered a marital asset.

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About the Author

Carrie Ferland is a practicing civil litigation defense attorney in the Philadelphia Area. As an author, her work has been featured in various legal publications for over 10 years. Ferland is a 2000 graduate of Pennsylvania State University and completed her Juris Doctorate and Master of Business Administration with the Dickinson School of Law. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in English.

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