PROPERTY DIVISION – MARITAL & SEPARATE – KEEPING SEPARATE SEPARATE. The sacred presumption of marital goes only so far, it seems, as we learn from an unpublished (for whatever that might be worth) opinion in Pratt v. Pratt, 26 VLW 935 (12/20/11), that yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as maintaining separateness of worldly possessions. So how’s this for keeping separate separate? A preacher who had kept the house when his first wife left him apparently got it in the divorce or settlement as all his own, and ten years later remarried. He took out a mortgage on the place two years before that, and after remarrying, refinanced three times, but staying the only debtor on the mortgage notes and keeping sole title, as he had since 1998. Second wife retired in 2001 and became a homemaker. Husband had a credit union account in his own name during most of the marriage, and he used that to make the mortgage payments. The wife put money in that account in 2006, but she removed it. That was after already removing $12,000 just before she left. The value of the house had been declining since 2009. Wife decorated and furnished the place, claimed she had written $10,000 in checks to the husband over the years for household related expenses, but the husband denied that she had contributed to the mortgage payments and said that all her renovation projects had never been completed. To complicate matters he got a $71,000 inheritance in 2005, but he deposited that to the credit union account in his own name. Husband showed that he used $16,000 from that to buy a car and jointly titled it, and acquired an investment fund worth about $10,000 titled in both names. And while the wife claimed that the car was predominantly driven by her and husband had to ask her permission to use it, husband testified he neither added money to nor removed it from the investment fund during this whole marriage. When he sued wife for divorce, the Fairfax Circuit Court gave wife 50% of the marital home, half the investment fund and ownership of the car. Court of Appeals used Duva v. Duva, 55 Va. App. 286, 685 S.E.2d 842 (2009), to show the trial court that it approached this in the wrong way, applying the wrong standard when it classified the house as all marital. The presumption is not that the husband’s pre-maritally owned house is marital, but that it is separate, and that presumption was not refuted here. And, citing Duva, the Court specifically rejected the argument that the property could not be separate since the husband did not get full legal title until after his second marriage. It has already been established in Virginia law, also, that showing only customary care by the non-owner spouse does not convert or transmute separate property. What is required is significant personal efforts by either spouse while married that result in a substantial appreciation of the separate property. Code §20-107.3(A)(1) and (A)(3)(a). Wife here showed only customary care, maintenance and upkeep and showed no significant value increase. The car should not have been classified marital, as it was re-traceable to the inherited money. Thus his joint titling of the car would not be regarded as a gift. The burden was on her and she “failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence, husband’s intent to give her the Toyota as a gift.” Mere joint titling does not create a presumption of gift, and there was no evidence shown here of donative intent, so classifying the car as marital was error. All the husband intended to give to the wife was the use of the car. Similarly, the investment fund was clearly re-traceable to the separate property inheritance, and registering it under joint names was rendered ineffectual for property classification purposes. It was husband’s uncontradicted testimony that he had established this fund before marriage.