Protected & Exempt Property Attorneys in Bergen County, NJ
Divorce Attorneys Serving Clients across New Jersey
Before any divorce can be resolved, agreements must be reached regarding the key divorce issues, including the equitable division of all marital property and debt. When it comes to the division of a marriage’s assets, one of the most commonly asked questions is “which, if any, specific assets are protected from being divided between the two parties?”
The answer, as with most answers to family law questions, is that it is complicated. Most assets, including those that an individual solely owned prior to the marriage (a property or business, for example), will be considered marital property and thus subject to equitable distribution laws. However there are exceptions, and there are also situations in which only a portion of a specific asset becomes marital property and not the asset in its entirety, all of which we will discuss in the sections below.
Of course, any time you are dividing complex marital assets during a divorce such as a business, a retirement fund, a home or other property, and even jointly-owned debts, it is highly recommended that you work with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney in order to ensure that your unique needs and financial situation are taken into account, and remain protected as you begin your post-divorce life.
At Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our family law attorneys have extensive experience handling highly complex financial matters for our clients during, and after, a divorce. Contact our firm today to discuss your case.
Prenuptial Agreements and Protected Assets
The first step in any divorce equitable distribution is to look at any existing marital agreement such as a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. If such an agreement does exist and is considered legally binding, then the terms outlined in the marital agreement will supersede the default equitable distribution process.
For example, if one spouse moved into the other’s home after their marriage, that home would almost certainly be considered marital property and thus subject to equitable distribution regardless of the fact that it was the property of only one of the spouses prior to the marriage. However, marital agreements allow for the couple to define this home as the sole property of one person or the other. In such an instance, the home would no longer be subject to equitable distribution in the event of a divorce and would remain the sole property of the owner.
If you have a signed marital agreement and have questions regarding its validity or its impact on your divorce’s equitable distribution agreement, our Bergen County marital agreement and divorce lawyers can help answer any questions you may have, and ultimately secure your legal and financial rights during your divorce.
Marital Property Attorneys
Once all marital agreement concerns have been addressed, the next step is to identify and separate marital property from individual property (barring any specific assets mentioned in a legal and valid marital agreement).
In general, any asset obtained during the course of a marriage, regardless of which spouse acquired it, will be considered marital property, meaning it will be subject to equitable distribution. Furthermore, assets that were owned prior to the marriage, but later co-mingled with the marital finances will most likely also be considered marital property.
Co-mingling, in this case, can refer to funds placed into a joint account, but it also extends to the idea that spouses can “contribute” to one another in ways other than financially. For example, while a housewife may not earn a salary, she certainly contributes to the marriage by caring for the family and home.
Between marital contributions and the commingling of finances, very few assets will be excluded from your equitable distribution agreement.
Equitable Distribution Exempt Asset Lawyers
With all that being said, there are a few assets that are exempt from equitable distribution during a New Jersey divorce.
- Gifts – While gifts given between the spouses during the marriage are subject to equitable distribution, gifts given prior to the marriage are not. This most often applies to engagement rings, but can also apply to other gifts given by the spouses to each other prior to the marriage. Conversely, gifts given by a third party outside of the marriage to one or the other spouse are also typically exempt from equitable distribution.
- Retirement Funds and Investments – One of the most complex aspects of any equitable distribution process is the division of retirement funds and investment portfolios. This is because even though these assets will most likely be subject to equitable distribution, it is only the post-marriage value of these assets that need to be divided. This can require extensive investigation into the history of these finances in order to establish what they were worth at the time the marriage began, what they are worth now, and how exactly to divide the difference in values between the parties.
- Inheritances and Trusts – Many trust funds are created with the ability to “hide” their benefits to the recipient. This means that there are situations where these financial gains are not factored into the equation when determining divorce agreements such as alimony, child support, and equitable distribution.
Contact Our Bergen County Complex Asset Division Lawyers Today
At Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our attorneys have extensive experience helping clients to divide complex assets and resolve their divorce in a fair and protected manner in towns across Northern New Jersey and Bergen County. By practicing exclusively matrimonial law, our firm is able to provide the kind of highly insightful, knowledgeable, and attentive legal counsel our clients need and deserve when it comes to the life-changing issues that come with any family law decision. To speak with a member of our legal team today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your divorce, whether or not specific assets may be exempt from the equitable distribution process, or any other concerns you may have regarding your divorce or other family law matter, contact our firm today.