When a couple decides to end their marriage, they have a lot of decisions that have to be made – not the least of which is how to divide their marital property.
Every state has its own rules for how this process is supposed to work. In New Jersey, marital property is supposed to be divided equitably – with an eye to fairness – rather than equally. First, however, you have to figure out what counts as marital property in the first place.
Carving out separate property is the first step
Generally speaking, marital property is anything that was acquired or earned during the marriage by either spouse – with some exceptions. Once you figure out what is considered each party’s separate property, everything left is a marital asset.
Separate property, or “non-marital assets,” include:
- Property or money that was inherited solely by one spouse (before or during the marriage)
- Gifts that were given solely to one spouse by a third party
- Property that belonged solely to one spouse prior to their marriage
- Property that one spouse bought out of their own separate funds (such as an inheritance)
It doesn’t matter if an asset was purchased solely by one spouse or for one spouse’s benefit. For example, if your spouse bought a sailboat a few years ago out of their bonus money, that boat is still marital property – even if you’ve never set foot on it.
Even gifts that were given from one spouse to another remain a part of the marital pot. For example, maybe you put a sizable chunk of the savings into a pair of diamond earrings for your wife a couple of anniversaries ago. Those earrings would still be part of the marital assets, not your wife’s separate property.
It’s also important to note that separate property can become marital property if it is commingled with marital assets. For example, if you get an inheritance from your father’s estate and then put it into a joint bank account that you share with your spouse, those funds then become marital assets.
Splitting up can be hard to do, but it does get easier when you understand how things are supposed to work as far as property division and other issues that have to be settled. When you’re approaching a divorce, it’s always wisest to learn more about your legal rights and the options you have for the future.