New Jersey couples who are considering a divorce may find it helpful to learn about division of assets. Depending on state laws and how funds were used, certain assets like inheritance or gifts may or may not be divided.
It is important to determine if the assets are considered marital or separate property. While the definitions of these vary from state to state, separate property usually includes gifts or inheritances received by one spouse, assets obtained before or after a marriage, compensation awarded for pain and suffering in personal injury suits and any assets outlined in premarital agreements.
The courts might make an exception if either party commingled a gift or an inheritance with marital funds; the money may then be considered joint property. However, if an inheritance is placed in a separate bank account in just the person's name with no marital monies added to the account, it would not be divided in a divorce proceeding.
The states consider all other assets as marital property, and property division will vary depending if the state is an equitable distribution or a community property state. Community property states split all assets equally. However, in equitable distribution states, the process of determining what belongs to whom is more complex. The courts will review various factors when making a final determination of property division.
A high asset divorce could become contentious, making it a difficult process for a family to endure. Individuals who wish to protect their assets might want to seek the counsel of a family law lawyer. Enlisting the service of a lawyer during a divorce proceeding may be beneficial as he or she could assist in drafting an agreement that is fair for a client as well as provide representation in court.
Source: Forbes, "Divorcing Women: Here's How to Protect Your Inheritances And Gifts", Jeff Landers, August 19, 2014