Prior to getting married in Tennessee, usually people had an individual life separate from that of their spouse. They may have owned homes, had bank accounts, retirement accounts and other assets, which they obtained all on their own. However, once they are married they begin to share their life with their spouse. This goes beyond simply sharing a home and filing joint tax returns. This can lead to complications during the property division process in a divorce.

The basic definition of marital property is that all assets both tangible and intangible obtained or earned by either or both spouses up until the date of the final divorce is marital property. This means that it does not matter if one spouse earned all the money or a purchase was made by only one spouse over the objection of the other. If the asset was obtained in the marriage, for the most part, it is marital property.

However, marital property can include some assets that one spouse owned before the marriage or in some instances obtained after the divorce. If both spouses substantially contributed to the preservation or appreciation of a non-marital asset, that asset could become a marital asset. Substantial contribution is more than just financial contribution though. It can include contributions of a spouse as a homemaker, parent or for handling the finances of the family.

Marital property can also include unvested stock options or deferred compensation which one spouse may not actually receive until after the divorce. These could still be considered a marital asset if the benefits accrued due to employment during the marriage.

When people divorce in Tennessee they must divide their shared life into two separate lives. This involves dividing all of the marital assets. Many of the assets are easy to determine by simply determining when an asset was obtained. However, other times assets that are obtained before or after a marriage can also be marital assets. This determination is a complicated one though and experienced may be able to guide one through the process.

Source:, “Tennessee Code Title 36. Domestic Relations § 36-4-121” accessed on September 20, 2017