In Zuidgeest v Zuidgeest, an unpublished case decided by the Court of Appeals on February 1, 2011, the higher court reversed the trial court’s property award to the wife. The husband owned a house and business interests prior to marriage. Wife moved in with husband and paid half the utilities and expenses and then they married a few years later. Husband subsequently sold the house and deposited the proceeds of the sale into a joint bank account. These monies were later used to purchase the marital home. Husband also sold his business interests and deposited those monies into the joint account. The trial court determined that the proceeds of the sale from the first house and the business were husband’s sole and separate property. It then awarded husband the marital home, and awarded wife a lump sum of money to compensate for her marital interest in the house. The trial court deducted the value of the net proceeds from the sale of husband’s separate property. The COA reversed, finding that while these assets were separate, they nevertheless lost their distinction as separate property when husband deposited the monies into a joint bank account, co-mingling them with marital assets. The Court reversed the property award and remanded to the trial court with instructions to include the value of the sale of the prior home and business when dividing the marital estate. The lesson here: don’t co-mingle what you had when single.
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