If you live in New Jersey and are contemplating a divorce action, it is direly important for you to understand how your marital property will be handled. Below are a few things that you must understand before filing for divorce.
1.) Marital Property
Marital property includes any asset acquired during the marriage. The “term of the marriage” begins on the date of the marriage, when you actually were married, and ends on the date the complaint for divorce is filed. Anything acquired during that time is considered marital property.
If you filed a complaint for divorce on the first of the month and then, on the 10th of the month, took your bonus check and bought a set of golf clubs, would that asset – those golf clubs – part of the marital property? The answer is no. If you utilized monies that were supposed to be your spouse’s, such as a bonus that could be part of your income – and part of the support calculation – you’re still entitled to your share of that. Let’s say you used your spouse’s share. The purchase took place after the complaint for divorce was filed. It’s still an asset outside of the marital property.
- Marital property includes any asset acquired during the marriage from the date you actually married to the date the complaint for divorce is filed.
- The legal term, equitable distribution, refers to any asset and/or debt that must be divided. It falls under the umbrella of equitable distribution.
2.) The Fate of the Marital House
There’s basically three different things that happened. One, a spouse can buy out the interest of the other spouse, and that spouse moves; or the spouse could buy the interest of the other spouse, and that spouse moves; or the house is sold. What if both spouses want the house? The first thing is both spouses would have to show a preapproval letter and the wherewithal to actually buy the other spouse’s interest out.
Let’s say you’ve got both spouses that have the ability to do that. What does a judge do? Sell the property. Pretty straightforward. You really want to understand, when you start this process, what your goals are, what you’re looking for, and who wants to stay in the marital residence. Are you going to stay in the marital residence? Will your spouse stay in the marital residence? Do you have children? Where are the schools for the children? Are they young children? Where are they going to high school? These are things you want to think about in that question of what are you going to do with the house.
Don’t kid yourself, it’s pretty straightforward stuff. There’s only a couple of options that can happen with the house. Can you get creative and say we’re going to stay in the house until our youngest gets out of high school, and then we’re going to keep both names on the house? Sure you can. You can come up with anything you want. If you look at it for the children’s sake, or you look at it from a pure financial stake to try to maximize the financial return for both spouses, that’s working together at some level, and that may be the best option.
- If you and your spouse own a home, one of three things can happen. The husband can buy out the wife’s interest, and she can move out; the wife may buy out the interest of the husband, and he can move; or, the house can be sold. If both spouses want the house, they each must produce a an approved letter and demonstrate that they have the wherewithal to buy out the other spouse’s interest.
- If both spouses can do that, a judge will sell the property. If you do start this process, it’s important to understand what each of you is looking for, and who wants to stay in the marital residence. If you have children, where are their schools? Where will they go to high school? Think about these things in deciding what to do with the house.
- You may be able to be creative and agree to stay in the house until the youngest child finishes high school – keeping both names on the house until then. If you both agree, you can do anything you want.
3.) Keeping Your Personal Items After Divorce
The simple answer is they’ll stay with you. What does that mean, exactly? If you have, for example, a gift that was given to you, a watch, some jewelry or something that was given to you by your spouse. Those items can remain with you. However, the value of those items, one half of which goes back to the spouse. Just use a watch, for example. Somebody was given a watch. The watch had a value of $10. At the time of divorce, the value is $8. Therefore, the spouse is entitled to $4. You’re going to either give the watch or give the $4. Really, the answer to the question, what happens with your personal belongings, they will go with you.
What if you had some items before you were married. For example, you had uncle Larry’s old mahogany desk from 1920 or something. It’s a historical piece, an antique, etcetera. It’s going to stay with you. If you brought it into the marriage with you, it stays with you. If you acquire it during the marriage, and the dates for the marriage are the actual date that you were marriage, and then the date of the filing of the complaint for divorce. Anything acquired within there is part of the marital pot that’s going to be divided and has to be distributed.
When you’re going to head into a divorce, one of the first things you want to do is identify what items you want, what items you want to keep, where did the other items come from, are they inherited property, were they gifts, etcetera. Then get with an attorney who is experienced, who can explain to you, listen, this piece of property is not going to stay with you. It is part of the marital pot; it’s got to be split. If you decide to keep it, you’ve got to value it, and then you’ve got to pay out a certain share of that.
- If your spouse once gave you a watch, some jewelry or some other gift, you can keep them; however, half their value is credited to your spouse.
- If you owned certain items before you were married – such as uncle Larry’s mahogany desk that is precious to you – and you brought it into the marriage, it stays with you. If you acquired that desk during the marriage, it is part of the marital pot and subject to equitable distribution.
- List your personal items. As you prepare for a divorce, one of your first priorities is to identify specific items you want to keep. Then, list where other items, such as gifts and inherited property came from. An experienced attorney can help you differentiate which property is part of the marital pot. If you decide to keep it, you’ll set a value on it and pay your spouse a certain share of that.
- Although your personal items can come with you, you may have to pay something to your spouse if it was an inter-spousal gift that has monetary value.
When going through a divorce in New Jersey, it is important to speak to an experienced Divorce Attorney about your options. Christopher Garibian Esq and his NJ attorneys will use their experience to protect your valued property.
Christopher Leon Garibian, Esq. is a partner in the matrimonial and family law department of Weiner Law Group LLP. He has over 19 years of experience handling a multitude of Divorce and Family Law Matters throughout New Jersey. He is passionate about family law and takes pride in his ability to effectuate real change in the lives of his clients. He is certified by the State Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Attorney. If you are in need of an experienced Divorce Attorney or Family Law Attorney in NJ, contact us today for compassionate, long lasting legal solutions.