Navigating Divorce and Premarital Property in New Jersey

Marital Assets Acquired During Marriage Are Subject to Equitable Distribution, With Certain Exceptions Involving Pre-Marital Assets

What Happens to Property Owned Before Marriage in New Jersey?Divorce is inevitably a complex matter. When it comes to determining how shared assets are distributed, however, rarely are things straightforward. Marital assets generally include those things that are obtained by the partners during the course of the marriage. They include income, real estate, financial accounts, investments, large purchases, retirement accounts, etc. Marital assets owned by both spouses are subject to equitable distribution in a divorce. In fact, even assets that were yours prior to the marriage can get mixed up in marital assets in some circumstances, giving your ex the right to equitable distribution. While New Jersey courts consider premarital assets – those obtained before marriage – to be off limits in a divorce, there are exceptions. If you are going through a divorce and want to protect your private premarital assets, contact us today at Bronzino Law Firm to learn how we can work on your behalf. Read on to learn more about how premarital property is handled in New Jersey divorces.

Pre-Marital Property and Marital Investments in NJ Divorce Proceedings

Separate assets, particularly those obtained before the marriage, can become subject to equitable distribution during a divorce. This often occurs when the premarital property is ‘worked on’ or enhanced during the course of the marriage, either by the original owner or their spouse. For example, if one spouse buys a house and later marries, and the couple then lives in the house, it is technically considered a premarital asset in divorce, giving the spouse no claim to any portion of it…in theory. However, if the spouse puts substantial time, money, or effort into renovating or caring for the house, it could be considered a marital asset in divorce. Or, it could also be considered a marital asset if the house was purchased with it becoming the marital home in mind.

The Active Versus Passive Growth Dilemma

Additionally, investments like stocks that are actively tended during a marriage, though invested before marriage, can enter the gray area of marital versus premarital assets. What determines their status in a divorce is whether they have grown in value actively or passively. Stocks purchased before a marriage that grows without being touched will likely be considered separate assets in a divorce, not subject to equitable distribution. These have grown passively. However, investments that have been tended to, managed, or actively worked on during the marriage will often see that their post-wedding value increases become marital assets in the eyes of the law. This is because they have actively grown.

Clarifying Ownership Rights of Marital and Separate Property

The vast majority of property obtained during the marriage is considered marital property, and, as we’ve discussed above, even property acquired before the marriage – or its increase in value – can be considered marital property for the purposes of divorce. However, there are a few cases in which property acquired during the marriage is considered separate property, not subject to equitable distribution in a divorce. This includes inheritances and gifts specifically named for one party. However, if, for example, inheritance money is spent for a joint asset and the spouse contributes to it, it could be considered a marital asset in the divorce.

The Challenge of Commingled Property in a NJ Divorce

Navigating Premarital Property During Divorce Proceedings in New JerseyCommingling assets is another issue that sees separate property considered marital property in a divorce. Mixing individual and marital assets muddies the proverbial water between them. A savings account that houses premarital funds but into which both spouses eventually place joint savings may become subject to equitable distribution in its entirety. In order to protect your premarital assets, it is essential to keep separate property in spaces that are not touched in any way by the marriage. Passive value growth is ok, but any active engagement of it could make it subject to the terms of marital property.

Let our New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Help You Protect Premarital Property in Brick, NJ

Premarital property – not only marital assets – impacts the divorce process, equitable distribution, and even child support and alimony. Income and assets of each individual are considered by the family court judge in determining what spousal support needs to be paid and how much a non-custodial parent will contribute to a child’s financial well-being. Yet, while separate assets must be transparently reported in a divorce, they need not be lost to your ex due to equitable distribution. Our team of divorce attorneys at Bronzino Law Firm ensures that our clients in Berkeley, Howell, Wall, Lacey, Lavallette, Mantoloking, Sea Girt, Manchester, and other municipalities in the Jersey Shore area have their private, pre-marital assets protected in a divorce. Contact us today at (732) 812-3102 to learn how we can help you move on with your life with your valuable assets at hand.