Understanding the legal definition of marital property is essential when you’re going through a divorce. In New Jersey, nearly anything either party in a marriage bought legally counts as marital property.
However, just because all your belongings are considered marital property doesn’t mean you’ll receive exactly half in the divorce. Courts consider several factors when dividing up marital property, including the length of the marriage, how much each spouse earned or contributed to the marriage, and prenups.
If you are going through a high asset divorce, working with an experienced divorce lawyer from Lyons & Associates, P.C., can help ensure your divorce doesn’t leave you high and dry.
Understanding What Is Marital Property in High Asset Divorce
Marital property in New Jersey encompasses a wide range of assets, from physical assets to investments. If you purchased or acquired property during your marriage, it’s likely marital property. However, marital property also includes debts. Common types of marital property include:
- Life insurance
- Properties including vacation homes, primary house, or investment properties
- Savings, checking, and cash accounts
- Debts, including mortgage
- Items in the home, including jewelry, furniture, and artwork
- Savings bonds and stocks
- Cars, planes, boats, or any other vehicles
- Retirement benefits, pensions, and stock options
While not exhaustive, this list can give you a good idea of where to start. Before your first meeting with your divorce lawyer, you may want to create a preliminary list of your marital assets.
What is Not Marital Property in New Jersey?
Some assets are exempt from marital property. This includes anything you owned before the marriage, gifts only you have received from anyone other than your spouse, and property or assets you inherit.
However, it is possible to turn non-marital property into marital property by co-mingling it with your spouse. For example, if you receive a home as an inheritance and change the title to include your spouse, it becomes marital property.
It can sometimes be challenging to determine whether a specific property is marital or not. Your lawyer can help you prove that your assets are not marital property and should not be factored in.
Dividing Marital Property in New Jersey
Because New Jersey is not a community property state, the court follows a concept called equitable distribution. This means that instead of trying to divide marital property 50/50, they try to divide it fairly. There are many factors the court considers when dividing marital property, including:
- How long you were married
- Your lifestyle while married
- Health of both parties
- Existing prenups
- Contributions you or your spouse made to the other’s education
- Non-financial contributions to the family (e.g., homemakers)
- Current income and earning ability of each party
- If you have children, where they will live
- Debts of each spouse
While most New Jersey courts don’t consider fault, they may penalize you or your spouse if you spent marital assets on illicit affairs or illegal activities, including gambling.
Protect Your Assets With a Top-Level Divorce Attorney
Whether you have significant assets or you want to avoid taking on your ex-spouse’s debt, it’s essential that you have a top-level family law attorney on your side. Your lawyer can help you reach an agreement outside of court or represent you in front of the judge.