Generally, when couples enter a contested divorce, their property will be broken down into two primary categories: marital and separate property. This blog will address the difference between the two, as well as detail how the equitable distribution process will influence the outcome of your divorce. Please read on and reach out to our experienced New Jersey divorce attorneys to learn more about what we can do for you.
Marital Property Inclusions and Exclusions
Essentially, marital property includes all property acquired during a marriage. This means that assets acquired before the date of marriage or after the date of divorce are generally ineligible for the division of assets. However, there are certain exceptions. They are as follows:
- Gifts are generally not considered marital property, even if they are acquired during the marriage. However, a gift which was further enhanced during the marriage by one or both spouses may be exempt.
- Retirement assets held before the marriage may have appreciated or been contributed to by both spouses, even though the account was opened before the marriage, and may be considered wholly or partially marital property
- Anything explicitly included in a prenuptial agreement, postnuptial agreement, or cohabitation agreement will be considered as per the terms of the agreement
- Trust funds, inheritances, and other assets gained through intestate succession are not considered marital property
In New Jersey, the division of assets is governed by equitable distribution, which uses a complex formula to determine what spouses are owed what and to what degree. This means that in most cases, just because an asset is considered marital property, both spouses are not necessarily entitled to 50% of it.
A key factor in determining what is an equitable distribution and in particular what assets may be marital is the contribution by each spouse towards their collective wealth. Contributions may be financial, including costs incurred in the acquiring, appreciating or maintaining valuables. Contributions may also be time invested such as upkeep of homes, other properties or businesses. Individual property may move into the realm of marital property if the non-owning spouse put their own money and/or time into a particular asset during the marriage.
A critical distinction is whether the contributions of the non-owning party caused the asset to increase in value. For example, let’s say the family home was acquired before marriage by the wife. If the husband cleaned up the previously unkempt house, re-finished hardwood floors, and built a fence around the back yard, those contributions may have materially increased the real value of the property. Even though he did not purchase the home, he may be able to claim that it was marital property based on his marital contributions.
To understand where you stand legally, you should speak to one of our property division lawyers and discuss your case. We may be able to show how marital contributions entitle you to what you need and deserve.
Contact our experienced Bergen County firm
At Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our attorneys have extensive experience helping clients to understand and protect their legal rights before, during, and after the divorce process in towns across New Jersey and Bergen County, including Hackensack, Ridgewood, Paramus, Teaneck, and Fort Lee. To speak with our team of divorce lawyers today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your concerns about your divorce, please contact us online, or through our Hackensack, NJ office at (201) 397-1750.