In our recent blog post titled “Mind Your Own Business!”, we explored New Jersey’s law on dividing property, including businesses, among separating spouses, which does not necessarily mean equal since New Jersey follows the equitable distribution model of dividing marital assets based on a series of statutory factors, not a formula. First, though, this raises questions about which properties are subject to division – does it encompass everything acquired before, during, or even inherited during the marriage?
In New Jersey, certain property is deemed as separate and excluded from the Court’s equitable distribution analysis. Conversely, others are deemed marital and are therefore subject to division. Marital property typically encompasses assets acquired during the marriage, such as income earned by either spouse, real estate purchased in joint names or using joint funds, retirement benefits accumulated during employment, and assets acquired during the marriage using marital funds. Upon divorce, marital property undergoes equitable distribution, meaning it is divided fairly, though not necessarily equally, between spouses.
On the other hand, separate property generally includes assets acquired outside of the marriage either before or from a source outside of the marriage. This might include assets owned before the marriage, gifts, inheritance received individually (and not comingled with marital assets), and certain assets specifically identified as separate property in a Prenuptial Agreement.
Navigating the complexities of marital and separate property, especially amid marital strains, requires caution. The intermingling of separate assets with marital ones can convert them into marital property, entitling one spouse to a share in a divorce settlement of property that one time could have been deemed separate property. Consulting with a qualified Family Law Attorney at Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann and Knopf, LLP can offer personalized insights into how these concepts apply to your specific circumstances.