Separate Property Law and Legal Definition

Separate property is a term used in divorce law to refer to property that belongs to one spouse and is not classified as marital property of both spouses under the law of community property states. Separate property will be transferred differently than marital property under the laws applying in the event of a divorce or death of a spouse. Laws governing separate property vary by state.

In community property states, assets are categorized as separate property if

  1. it was acquired before marriage,
  2. it was acquired by inheritance,
  3. it was a gift,
  4. it consists of assets traceable to other separate property such as money received from sale of a house owned before marriage, and
  5. the spouses agree is separate property.