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Are you aware of all of your marital property?

When a couple gets married, their individual personalities and interests often lead them to take on separate duties in the relationship. Maybe one spouse handles most of the cooking and household maintenance, while the other spouse transports the kids to and from school and handles the financial matters such as investments and bank accounts.

This way of dividing labor is natural and common, but sometimes spouses who have generally stayed away from money issues find themselves financially compromised in the event of divorce. This happens to men and women alike, but a recent survey by Fidelity Investments found that less than 25 percent of women said they were primarily responsible for making daily financial decisions, and less than 20 percent of women claimed responsibility for retirement planning. 

Regardless of your gender or sex, it is important to be informed about what is regarded as marital property in divorce. We've written before about dividing a 401(k) or an IRA in a divorce settlement. But there are other assets besides retirement accounts, real estate and other items such as cars that could be evaluated for property division.

For example, maybe one spouse used marital funds to amass an art collection, or one spouse enjoyed an expensive club membership while the other spouse didn't. In the case of an art collection, an accurate valuation would be needed to determine the current value, as well as a possible appreciation in value. Dividing the cost of the club membership could also be accounted for in divorce negotiations.

Unfortunately in some cases, one divorcing spouse will mislead the other about property or attempt to hide marital assets, such as stock options or other investments. Hiding assets is illegal, and an attorney can help prevent this from happening and help evaluate those assets when they are accounted for.

If the spouses' relationship is more amicable, a collaborative property division may be possible through mediation.

In any case, divorcing spouses in New Jersey should be apprised of their options for achieving a fair settlement.

Source: Forbes, "Women: Be Equal Partners in Marital Finances," Jeff Landers, Nov. 6, 2013

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