After 30+ years of marriage, I am separating from my spouse due to mental health issues (bipolar, prescription drug abuse, psychotic break, multiple physical ailments, and narcisstic personality disorder). The bulk of our assets are in joint brokerage accounts which have been managed by financial institutions; these funds came from an inheritance she received during our marriage. My question: Despite these accounts being designated as JOINT in their titles, are they considered to be her personal assets, rather than joint assets? She lives in our home and I’m concerned she may trash it before it’s put on the market. Question: What rights would I have if she does this? What means can be taken to minimize this? The collaborative separation meetings are going slow, as she deliberately wants to delay the separation agreement and even threatens to not sign any agreement unless I move the separation date back ½ year, saying this will give her more time to get healthy and restore the marriage. I feel like a hostage. A friend advised me to continue with collaboration until she finally tires of not getting her way, that way if she is the one to stop the collaboration, I have leverage for her to pay attorney fees when I have to hire a traditional attorney. Question: Does such advise have merit? Her salary is three times mine, and she recently took short term disability and plans to take permanent disability. She told me she’ll soon be making as little as me. Question: To what extent will her lower salary influence our settlement? Thank you for addressing my questions.
Inheritance is treated as separate property, unless you can show the the inheritance was gifted to the marriage. Generally simply investing it in a jointly held account will not be enough to show that she gifted it to the marriage.
If you believe she will do something to damage the home, you can file a motion for interim distribution, although it sounds like you are in the collaborative process. You need to review your collaborative agreement to see how the attorneys fees are handled in case of a breach.