Divorce FAQ's

Protecting Family Heirlooms and Other Assets in a Divorce

1. How can I protect my family heirlooms in a divorce case?

The answer to your question depends upon what type of assets are at issue, when and how they were acquired, and whether or not your spouse played any part in any increase in their value. In New Jersey all property, except for gifts and inheritances, that are acquired once you become married is considered to be marital property. All other assets that owned before the marriage, or that are or acquired before or during the marriage by gift or inheritance are considered to be your own separate property. The law of equitable distribution can become very complicated if there is commingling of your separate property with marital property, or if your spouse helped to increase the value of your separate property.

2. How will the family court distribute any separate marital asset when it has been commingled?

The court will analyze and review the value of your separate property on the dates either when you were married or when it was commingled. The court will also analyze when and how your spouse helped to increase the assets value. In the typical divorce case the court will try to determine how much value your spouse contributed to the asset. Thereafter, the court will try to apportion a fair split of that asset.

3. How can I protect a family heirloom in my divorce case?

Family heirlooms are some of the more easy types of assets to try to protect from commingling. It is not easy to commingle jewelry, watches, or furniture with your spouse. The major rule is that you should always try to avoid commingling your assets with your spouse. However, this is easier said than done! Therefore, if you have inherited a stock portfolio, then you and your spouse should never trade in and out of that portfolio. This same rule also applies to savings account, a CD, a trust account, a checking account, a mutual fund, or any other type of any asset that you own. Nonetheless, if you should happen to commingle these assets, then you can still protect your separate property as long as you can prove or trace the money from your own a separate account.

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