Division of personal property, assets and debts during a divorce is accomplished via one of two methods: community property or equitable distribution. New Jersey is an equitable distribution state. Equitable distribution means that the divorce court will divide property and debts in a fair – but not necessarily equal – manner. In other words, New Jersey law does not require a straight 50/50 split of assets and debts. Many factors influence what percentage of an asset each spouse receives, including the type of asset, when it was acquired and the fund or energies used to obtain the asset in question.
If you are considering a divorce, you need to understand your rights and obligations with regard to marital property, assets and debts. The Somerville family law attorneys of Lyons & Associates can explain how property division works during divorce and recommend actions to take and to avoid with regard to your property if you are considering separation and divorce.
Almost more important than the difference between equitable distribution and community property is the distinction between marital property and non-marital property (also called separate property). Non-marital property consists of all assets each spouse owned when the marriage began. Marital property is all assets acquired during the marriage, even by the efforts of one spouse alone. Exceptions to marital property can include bequests to one spouse, gifts to one spouse, and money from the settlement of personal injury lawsuits during the marriage (as long as those assets have not been co-mingled).
Marital property will be divided between the spouses. Separate property remains separate. These concepts are easier understood with practical examples.
- I bought a motorcycle during our marriage. My wife just told me she wants a divorce. Can I sell the motorcycle and keep the money?
No. The motorcycle is marital property, and your wife is legally entitled to a fair share of the profits from its sale.
- Can I protect my right to our house if I put the title in my mother’s name?
No. If you bought the house during the marriage, the house is marital property regardless of whose name is on the title. The house may even be, at least partly, marital property if you owned the house before the marriage but it increased significantly in value during the marriage.
Stay tuned for future posts with more practical examples of how equitable distribution works in New Jersey divorces.
Contact Us for Answers to Questions About Property Division and Protecting Your Assets During Divorce
At Lyons & Associates, we bring a high level of personalized service and attention to each of our clients, in every family law case we handle. To schedule an appointment to discuss divorce and property division questions, contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777.