In today’s world, many people live with their significant other before they are married. Unfortunately, in most cases in the state of New Jersey, this time period does not count toward alimony or equitable distribution.
When couples are divorcing, they often feel they are entitled to an asset or alimony due to the length of their relationship. What if the couple lived together for 5 years before they decided to marry? 10 years? 15 years? In New Jersey there is a presumption that assets are divided from the time the couple was married until the Complaint for divorce was filed. However, if one spouse can prove that during the time of cohabitation there was financial dependency by one spouse on the other, then the court may go back in time and consider the cohabitation period when equitably distributing marital assets or awarding alimony. (McGee v. McGee, 277 N.J.Super. 1 (App.Div. 1994). For example, suppose a man and woman begin a relationship and a woman finds herself pregnant about a year after they start dating. They decide, because they are having a child, that the two of them will move in together. Once they move in together, the woman quits her job and takes care of the home. Shortly thereafter, she has their child. She never returns to work and the couple decides to marry when the baby is two years old. 10 years after the marriage, the couple decides to divorce. Should the judge determine alimony from the date of the marriage or the date they couple began to live together? In most circumstances, the judge will look at the date of marriage. In this case, however, an argument can be made that from the time the woman moved into the marital home, she was financially dependent upon her significant other and therefore, should be entitled to computation of alimony from the time the two began to cohabitate.
What about the marital home? What if one spouse owned the house for a long time before the couple was married? Does that mean it cannot be equitably distributed? Is the other spouse entitled to a share of the house? Usually, the judge will again look to the date of marriage to equitably divide the house. An asset, such as the marital home, may not necessarily be divided in 50/50 but another percentage can be used depending upon how long someone owned the house before marriage.
What if one spouse bought the house “in contemplation of marriage?” In other words, what if a couple decides to have a long engagement and the soon to be husband buys the house in his own name? The two of them decide to move into the house together to save money for the wedding. Two years after the move in date, the couple is married. 7 years after the marriage date, the couple decides to get divorced. Should the marital home be split in accordance with the date of marriage, or should the date of beginning cohabitation be used to calculate equitable distribution? In this case, an argument can be made that both people contributed to the maintenance of the home from the time they moved in together. Here, the home was bought together with the idea that it would one day be the marital home. In this instance, the judge may want to use the date of cohabitation to determine the equitable distribution of the home.
Contact an Experienced New Jersey Family Law Litigation and Contested Divorce Lawyer
The above examples are just a couple of ways a seemingly simple divorce can become quite complicated. If you are contemplating divorce and need more guidance regarding the law, contact the Law Offices of Lyons & Associates. At the Law Offices of Lyons & Associates, we represent men and women throughout New Jersey who have unresolved family law matters, including alimony and the division of the marital home. We place a premium on personalized service and attention. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-575-9777.