Equitable Distribution and Premarital Property

New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, meaning that property acquired during the marriage is subject to distribution, or division, upon a divorce in a fair manner. There are exceptions to this rule, which include gifts, inheritances and personal injury awards that compensate the injured spouse for their injury, and not necessarily lost wages.

Property that was acquired prior to the marriage is generally not subject to equitable distribution. However, property acquired before the marriage can be subject to equitable distribution if the other spouse contributed to its increase in value during the marriage. For example, if a spouse purchases a house prior to the marriage but the parties put a large addition on to the house during the marriage with marital funds, the increase in value to the premarital house as a result of the addition would be subject to equitable distribution. Conversely, any passive increase in value that is not a result of the other spouse’s marital contribution is not subject to equitable distribution. Using the house purchased before the marriage as an example once again, if the value in the house increases purely because the overall real estate market in the area has increased, that increase in value is not subject to equitable distribution. The other spouse had nothing to do the market forces that drove the home’s value up.

Determining whether or not certain assets, either acquired prior to or during the marriage, is subject to equitable distribution is highly fact sensitive. It is therefore important that you speak to an experienced attorney before you divide your property in a divorce. Contact the Bronzino Law Firm to discuss your divorce today.