What is Considered “Marital” Property in a New Jersey Divorce?
Marital property or marital assets are property or assets that have been earned or acquired during the marriage by either party. Martial property and/or marital assets will be equitably divided between spouses at the time of divorce. This process is called equitable distribution of marital property and/or assets.
So long as the property or asset was acquired during the marriage, it does not matter whether the property or asset was purchased solely with the income earned by one spouse during the marriage as opposed to the other spouse. If the property or asset was purchased or acquired during the marriage by way of the income or the efforts of either party (separately or jointly), the property will be deemed marital for purposes of equitable distribution upon divorce. Also, gifts that one spouse may gift to another spouse during a marriage are considered the marital property of both spouses.
Although there are variations and exceptions, as referenced below, non-marital property or assets are generally considered exempt from equitable distribution at the time of divorce. The basic definition of non-marital property is (1) property that was purchased by one spouse prior to the marriage; (2) property that was gifted specifically to one spouse by a third party prior to the marriage or during the marriage; (3) property that was inherited by a spouse prior to the marriage or during the marriage; and (4) property that was received or purchased by a spouse during the marriage that was clearly the direct result of the efforts or income of that same spouse prior to the marriage.
There is a legal presumption that property or assets acquired during the marriage are deemed marital for purposes of distribution upon divorce. However, this presumption can be rebutted with facts demonstrating that the property at issue falls into one of the categories listed above.
There are some fundamental ways by which otherwise exempt non-marital property may be wholly or partially subject to equitable distribution. The following is a sampling of different ways that a spouse might be entitled to a portion (small or large depending on the circumstances) to the other spouse’s non-marital property at the time of divorce: (1) the property that was formally titled in one spouse’s name has been transferred to title in both spouse’s names or in the other spouse’s name during the marriage; (2) there has been an increase in value of the property or asset that is the result of the utilization of marital funds or the efforts of the non-owning spouse; (3) the party who owns the non-marital property/asset has acted in a manner that demonstrates a clear and obvious intention on his or her part to gift the non-marital property/asset to the other spouse. These are only a sampling of the most common ways by which otherwise non-marital property or assets that would otherwise be fully exempt from equitable distribution might be considered partially or wholly subject to equitable distribution at the time of divorce.
The answer to this question is not as simple as the examples listed above, as each case is very fact specific and can become complex, especially given that the law changes frequently with respect to the exempt status of non-marital property and assets for purposes of equitable distribution. As such, it is always best to speak with an experienced attorney if you have any questions with respect to the distribution of property that may be deemed non-marital at the time of divorce.
At Goldstein Law Group, we provide experienced legal advice and representation to Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex county residents regarding family law matters such as divorce, property distribution, child support, alimony, and child custody, as well as municipal court proceedings. You can contact us at 732-967-6777 or by completing our online form..