Division of Assets & Debts
Property Division Lawyer in
New Jersey law provides clear guidelines regarding the property distribution in a divorce settlement. But within those guidelines is no small amount of flexibility. Will that flexibility be used to advance a spouse’s best interests, or will it hinder them? How that question is answered may well depend on the quality and experience of their Bergen County property division lawyer.
TMO Law Firm was founded in order to bring together partners with over 75 years of combined experience in New Jersey divorce cases. We aim to leverage the knowledge and savvy gained from that experience on behalf of each and every client who comes through our door. Our service areas extend beyond Bergen County to include Morris, Passaic, Essex, and Hudson counties, and sweep through northern New Jersey.
Before property can be divided between the spouses, it first has to be defined. In legal terms, that means classifying it as separate property or marital property. Separate property is that which is owned exclusively by one spouse. Marital property is owned jointly.
The distinction between these two classifications is less complex than many people realize. Separate property is that which is owned prior to the marriage. Marital property is what was acquired after the marriage. The only exceptions to this are inheritances, which can be considered separate property even if one of the spouses came into this property during the marriage.
But identifying what was owned prior to the wedding date and what was acquired afterward can also be more complex than it might seem at first glance. There are some cases, where the distinction will be black-and-white. As an example, a piece of art or furniture that one spouse owned while they were single is easy enough to define as separate property. The house that the spouses bought together after they were married for three years is just as easy to define as marital property.
Other scenarios, very common in marriages, are not as easy. Let’s consider, as an example, a spouse’s 401(k) account for a job they’ve been working at since graduating from college. They weren’t married when they started the job and qualified for benefits, so it’s separate property, right? To a certain extent, yes. But not entirely. The money that was added to the 401(k) after the marriage is marital property. The same goes for any other investments that might follow a similar timeline.
Let’s also take the house. One spouse owned it prior to the marriage and that’s where the couple decided to live. But what if renovations were made after the wedding date? Those renovations enhance the home value, and the appreciation value is marital property.
In cases like these and others, defining what part of a property’s value is separate and what is marital, requires thoroughness. Getting the right answers starts with asking the right questions, and that’s where the value of our experienced Bergen County property division attorneys can make a big difference.
Once all the property is defined, it has to be distributed. Separate property is returned to its original owner. Marital property is then subject to New Jersey’s equitable distribution laws.
The word “equitable” is important. It’s not the same as “equal”. The latter calls for a clean 50/50 split. The former might end up with that—in fact, a 50/50 split is often presumed to be the most equitable. But it’s a more flexible term, and simply requires that a settlement be fair. Who decides what’s fair? If the case goes to court, that would be a New Jersey family law judge.
Our Bergen County property division lawyers believe spouses are far more likely to know what is equitable. That’s why we make a collaborative settlement our goal. We will certainly go to court if that’s what it takes to make sure our clients get treated fairly. But we will exhaust all avenues for a privately negotiated settlement first.
“Everyone should have a lawyer of this caliber. He wasn't just my ally. He was my hero.” - Elana
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Divorce can be painful to go through, but it’s also the path to a new beginning. The property settlement will serve as the financial foundation for that fresh start. We’re here to help our clients get control of their future.