Determining Marital Property in Country Club Memberships in New Jersey
Understand the Critical Factors when Reaching an Agreement on the Fate of a Country Club Membership in Your Divorce
You and your spouse enjoyed playing golf and leisure activities at various country clubs, such as Plainfield, Crestmont, and Crestmont Country Clubs while visiting friends or entertaining for work. But now that you are contemplating divorce, you wonder who gets the prepaid country club membership you shared. While country club memberships are part of the marital assets, the division of such an asset depends on what you and your spouse agree to, other marital assets to offset the award to you or your spouse, and the membership policies and rules.
At Bronzino Law Firm, you will find an experienced family law attorney who understands what the golf or country club membership means to you and your family. You want someone to represent your feelings about the membership and negotiate hard for it, which is our commitment to clients throughout Berkeley, Freehold, Sea Girt, Toms River, Manasquan, Lacey, Tinton Falls, Neptune, Middletown and Ocean and Monmouth County. Our family lawyers can offer marital assets to trade with your spouse to get you the membership without sacrificing other financial needs. Conversely, we can negotiate for an alternate asset that you care about in exchange for the membership your spouse prizes more than you do. In other words, the membership can be a good bargaining tool for dividing and transferring assets to settle the divorce depending on your needs and priorities.
We understand that your situation is unique, and we listen to your concerns in order to develop a tailored approach that best suits you. Contact our offices at (732) 812-3102 for a free consultation regarding the country club membership in your divorce.
Valuing a Country Club Membership in NJ
Country club memberships are typically expensive. The average club membership costs over $500.00 a month but can go as high as $1,000.00 or more monthly. And if the fees are prepaid or there is a high initiation fee, the country club membership turns out to be a substantial investment. Thus, courts consider the country club membership a tangible asset with economic value and subject to marital property division. Moreover, one spouse may rely on the country club to conduct business transactions and entertain, so they may argue the membership should be theirs and the other spouse should take something of equal value of their half from the marital assets to offset the membership.
Factors Considered in Awarding Country Club Memberships
A court may award the membership to the spouse who needs the membership for work over the spouse who occasionally plays tennis or golf at the club. The issue is more difficult when both spouses use the country club to conduct business or as a substantial source of social interaction. For example, one or both spouses may have long-term relationships from swimming or golfing with other club members, getting to know their families, and socializing outside the club. They may spend a significant amount of time taking tennis lessons and playing tennis as their only form of exercise and good health or keeping their kids in sports and other activities at the club. The membership may have deep sentimental or intangible value to one or both parents.
NJ Country Clubs’ Rules and Polices can Affect Divorce Distribution
However, who gets the membership may be a matter of club rules and policies. Many country clubs have policies regarding divorce and membership privileges, which some clubs give members when they sign their contracts to join. When there is no prohibition against it, the divorcing couple may present the country club with their marital agreement to establish who can have or use the membership and who pays for it. The club may honor or confine the couple to club policies of allowing only the primary, not the secondary member, to enjoy the club privileges.
When the country club or golf club prohibits a non-primary member from being a member on their own without the membership board or committee approval or consent of the primary member, the parties must have an alternate plan. In that case, the secondary spouse may receive a comparable value in the marital property to compensate for the loss of their half interest in the membership. So, for example, the secondary spouse may receive $50,000.00 in stocks or the timeshare in exchange for their half of the $100,000.00 initiation fee. Alternatively, the out spouse may negotiate with the club to have a membership in their name or find another club to join. The other spouse may even pay for it to equalize the marital asset distribution.
When the club’s policies do not address divorce and who may retain ownership of the membership, the one who the parties agree should be the sole member must get permission from the club before the asset ownership becomes a court order. And when the parties cannot agree on the rights to the membership, a court can decide and order one party to retain membership ownership. The court may even order one spouse to pay for the other’s membership at another club of the same caliber, so long as the spouse is eligible to be a member at the chosen club and can pay the ongoing fees.
And if the club agrees, the spouses may remain members beyond the divorce. However, each spouse will need a strong advocate to anticipate potential problems with that arrangement. After all, the parties may not get along during or after the divorce. And given that the divorced couple may attend joint activities, they must be prepared to face new partners or dating relationships. And, of course, the parties must be able to be civil with one another to make the arrangement work. Good family law counseling can raise the possible scenarios and challenges such an arrangement brings.
Challenges Regarding Fair Country Club Membership Division
If sharing the membership is impossible, the parties must arrive at a value for the membership to divide it fairly. Some New Jersey memberships are prime assets, especially when membership is exclusive and hard to get. The asset may also appreciate the more exclusive it becomes, with two to five-year waiting lists to get a membership or substantially increased fees. More problematic still is to value what the asset means emotionally. The membership’s economic value may not represent the total value to the spouse losing privileges. Thus, while the money that the marital unit invested in the membership is the tangible valuation, the sentimental or intangible value may make the asset worth more.
Count on our Divorce Guidance for a Fair Distribution of Your Country Club Membership in Southern New Jersey
While you want to get on with your life with as little disruption as possible, you must consider how you and your family maintain their lifestyle post-divorce. Call a highly reputable divorce lawyer at Bronzino Law Firm at (732) 812-3102 to help resolve the country club membership in your case. We provide consultations at no cost, and someone is ready to assist you.