In New Jersey, spouses’ marital assets are subject to “equitable distribution” during the divorce process. While this sounds straight-forward enough, and while it is easy enough to say that most divorcing couples settle their marital property division out of court, when it comes to actually dividing your assets, making the necessary decisions can be a very challenging process.
Consider, for example, the issue of assets with sentimental value. From photos and art collections to the family home, most couples will have a number of assets that carry strong emotional attachments. But, in a divorce, these assets need to be divided, and this inherently means giving up certain assets in exchange for others.
So, if you want to protect certain assets in your divorce, what options do you have available? While everyone’s situation is unique, here are some methods you may be able to use to help secure your desired property rights in your divorce:
Ways to Protect Specific Assets During a New Jersey Divorce
1. Prove that the Asset is Separate Property
New Jersey’s equitable distribution rules only apply to “marital assets.” Broadly speaking, these are assets that are acquired during the marriage. If you owned a prized possession before you got married, it may qualify as “separate property,” and this means that it is not subject to distribution in your divorce.
In addition, there are certain exceptions to the default rule that assets acquired during the marriage constitute marital property. For example, assets acquired by inheritance during a marriage generally are not subject to equitable distribution. Before you start thinking about dividing your marital estate, it is essential to have a clear picture of the assets that are exempt from the process.
2. Rely on Your Prenuptial Agreement
Did you and your spouse (then-fiancé) sign a prenuptial agreement? If so, one of the first steps in your divorce will be to understand the impact of your agreement. Prenuptial agreements can cover a broad range of topics, including ownership of marital property. When a prenuptial agreement provides for a distribution of specific assets to one spouse or the other, the terms of the agreement (assuming it is legally enforceable) will control over New Jersey’s default property distribution rules.
3. Negotiate for What You Want
As we mentioned above, most spouses settle their divorces without court intervention. As you prepare for your divorce, it is important to begin thinking about what matters most. Negotiation inherently involves a give-and-take; and, when grounded with reasonable expectations, having a strategy to execute will help ensure that you achieve your desired outcome. As you prepare for your divorce, try to think critically about questions such as:
- Which assets did you (and your spouse) own prior to the marriage?
- Which assets did you (and your spouse) acquire through inheritance?
- Which assets do you absolutely want to keep after your divorce?
- Which assets are most important to your spouse?
- Are there debts associated with any assets you want to keep (i.e. a mortgage or car loan)? If so, will you be able to make the monthly payments without financial support?
- Are you willing to make concessions in other areas (i.e. alimony) if necessary to secure your desired property rights?
Schedule an Initial Divorce Consultation at Helmer, Conley and Kasselman
For more information about protecting your property rights during your divorce, schedule an initial divorce consultation at the New Jersey law offices of Helmer, Conley and Kasselman. To speak with one of our experienced divorce lawyers in confidence, call 1-877-435-6371 or inquire online today.