If a couple divorces in New Jersey, decisions will need to be made about how to characterize each item of property and determine what each asset is worth. Whether or not an investment account may be divided depends on whether the court considers it marital property or separate property. At Goldstein Law Group, our experienced Monmouth County divorce lawyers can seek to protect the financial wellbeing of our clients during the division of investment accounts.Dividing Investment Accounts between Spouses
Investment accounts that are in one spouse's name and acquired before the marriage are separate property, not subject to division. However, joint investment accounts are subject to equitable distribution during divorce. Equitable distribution does not necessarily mean a 50-50 split of the investment account. Instead, courts divide property fairly, looking at such factors as the length of the marriage, each spouse's contribution to the marriage, each spouse's economic circumstances, whether one of the spouses made it possible for the other to get education or training, tax consequences of the split, and the couple's shared lifestyle during the marriage.
Generally, a judge can choose to give greater weight to certain factors over others. The greatest emphasis is usually placed on how long the marriage lasted and what kind of lifestyle the spouses led during the marriage. New Jersey judges usually do not look at fault. However, if one spouse has dissipated marital assets, the court may assign the other spouse more of any remaining assets, including investment accounts, in order to compensate for the spouse's misuse. Similarly, there may be exceptions to the general rule against looking at fault if one spouse behaves very egregiously towards the other.
If the account is a gift to one spouse during the marriage, it is separate property. As long as it is separate and not commingled with marital property, it will remain the original owner's property, even if it changes form due to economic circumstances or accrues interest during the marriage.
For example, a mutual fund account that is separate property that grows exponentially during a marriage because the fund manager is a skillful investor remains separate property in spite of its growth. However, separate investment accounts can be transmuted into marital property through the original owner's actions. For example, the recipient of a gifted investment account who puts his or her spouse's name on the account has turned the property into a commingled asset. In that case, the investment account will be subject to the court's equitable distribution.
In some cases, the distribution of investment accounts is covered by a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Our attorneys can review this type of agreement to determine whether it is enforceable. If it is not, we can develop strategies to challenge the agreement and the division of the investment accounts.Contact a Monmouth County Lawyer during a Divorce
At Goldstein Law Group, we work with experienced accountants and appraisers in an effort to make sure your property is fairly valued, categorized, and divided. We have our main office in Old Bridge, from which we serve individuals in Middlesex County and the surrounding areas. Our family law attorneys can work diligently to understand the details of your situation and advocate for your interests. We represent clients in Freehold, Rumson, and Manalapan, among other communities. Contact us at 732-967-6777 or via our online form to schedule a free consultation with a Monmouth County divorce attorney.