Assets & Marital Property FAQs

Assets & Marital Property FAQs: How you can protect your assets in a divorce? Find out the answers to this and other frequently asked questions about asset division and asset protection when getting divorced in New Jersey.

How do spouses commonly hide assets in a divorce?

During divorce, spouses can attempt to hide assets in several ways, such as opening secret bank accounts, secretly selling property without the other spouse knowing, obtaining additional employment without reporting it for taxes, funneling monies into a third-party’s bank account, or transferring property to third parties.

How can I protect my marital assets in a divorce?

It is important to make sure that, wherever possible, your name is listed as a co-owner on any marital property and that any transfers of money or property requires both yours and your spouse’s signature. If you feel your spouse is or has been transferring monies out of marital accounts or selling/transferring marital assets, consult with a family law attorney who can refer you to other professionals such as forensic accountants or private investigators who would be able to assist you in tracking your spouse’s financial transfers.

Can I Make My Spouse Move Out of the House Now That We’ve Decided to Divorce?

The decision to divorce can be a difficult and emotional decision. While the situation generally implies that one of the parties will leave the family home, it’s not always clear when or how that should happen. Find out more about moving out of the family home during times of divorce in this video answer from Bari Weinberger of Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group:

I bought a house in 1998 and got married in 2008. If I got a divorce, would my wife be entitled to half of the house?

It is unlikely that your wife would be entitled to one-half of the value of your house in the divorce. New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, which means marital property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. Your house is definitely pre-marital property and would not be subject to traditional equitable distribution rules. However, if your wife contributed to the property, such as by paying the mortgage she may be entitled to a percentage of the home. Also, she may be able to argue that she is entitled to a percentage of the market value increase of the property, if there was indeed an increase in value since you were married. Provide more details regarding this property to an attorney to get further guidance and advice.

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How can I tell if my spouse is hiding money or marital assets?

One strong indicator that we see a lot is by looking at the bank account statements. If your spouse hasn’t had a history of taking cash out of the ATM machines, and suddenly there’s a constant every week withdrawal of a certain handful of hundreds of dollars, be mindful of where this money is actually going. If this is not a historical situation, we need to start looking at where that money is going. That’s one area. Another area of assets that could be hidden is a very simplistic place. And it’s not necessarily intentional; a lot of people forget to ask about certain assets in the finality of their divorce, such as credit card reward points or airline miles. And when they’re wrapping up their final settlement agreement, those actually add up considerably in certain cases, and you want to make sure that you capture what you’re entitled to.

My husband and I are divorcing, how do I keep the house?

We have a house that we have lived in for nearly twelve years with a fairly high mortgage payment monthly that is only in his name. I’d like to keep the house and my husband has offered to transfer the house to me in the divorce. I would have to refinance once the house is in my name to hopefully get a lower payment. Is this possible?

This is absolutely possible and it is a very common scenario for divorcing couples who share a marital residence. As part of your divorce, your husband would sign possession of the home over to you using what is known in New Jersey as a “quit claim deed.” Once signed and in effect, you will have possession of the home and only your name will appear on the deed. However, it is important that you and our husband talk with the mortgage company to see if they would be willing to remove his name from the mortgage and transfer it to you. Remember, the mortgage is based on credit and their belief in the ability to pay. If you are not a suitable candidate, they may not agree to refinance.

What happens to joint bank accounts during a divorce?

There are a couple of different schools of thought on this. Many people will tell you that you should just go and quickly invade the joint accounts, that you should quickly take out half, and the other spouse will be left with the other half. Some attorneys will come out and say, “You shouldn’t touch it. Leave it alone.” The reality is, you should really just try to continue to maintain the status quo. If you have used certain joint accounts as revolving accounts, your bill pay related accounts, bills come in, you use the joint accounts, you pay the bills, paychecks go into that joint account, and it continues to serve as an operating account, my suggestion is: Continue to operate as business as usual in the ordinary course. Because if you do that, then one party won’t consider the other party to be game-playing, and then it won’t be a free-for-all into that joint account to try to invade those assets. Each party won’t be trying to one-up the other. There won’t be some tremendous amount of increased distrust. So, just know that joint accounts should continue to maintain the standard of living of the family.

My wife and I have been married for 20 years. I have a pension from UPS where I started working 10 years before we got married. I want a divorce. Is my wife entitled to any of my pension?

Most likely, your wife would be entitled to a percentage of your pension. The rule of thumb is that spouses are entitled to one-half of what was put into the pension (including any interest reinvested or employer contribution) during the term of the marriage. Therefore, your wife would theoretically be entitled to half of what was put into the pension beginning from the date of marriage until the date of the filing of the complaint for divorce. There are other factors such as if there are any pension loans and details such as what type of pension you have should also be considered. See a family law attorney for further guidance.

I purchased my home ten years before I got married and it was fully paid off when my wife and I got married. Is she entitled to any portion of the house?

Your house would be considered premarital property here in New Jersey and, as a general rule, premarital property is not subject to equitable distribution in a divorce. However, a spouse could be entitled to a percentage of the increase in the market value of the home or could be entitled to reimbursement of monies or payment for actual labor put into the renovations or upkeep of the property.

My wife ran up over $10k in credit card debt on shoes and clothes for herself. Am I responsible for paying any of this debt in the divorce?

Most likely not. New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, meaning that assets and debts are divided fairly, not necessarily equally. If you had no benefit from the purchases, or if your wife cannot prove the purchases were for the household or the family, then you will most likely not be held responsible for debt that she incurred shopping for herself.

I inherited a beautiful painting from my great aunt right before my divorce. It was left to me in her will. My husband was not mentioned. Is he entitled to the painting?

No. Gifts and inheritances are not subject to equitable distribution in a divorce, and this piece of art would not be subject to division. even if the painting hung in your marital home for years. New Jersey divorce law ensures that the wishes of the person making the bequest or the gift are honored. Since your great aunt left the painting specifically to you, your wife has no claim to it in the divorce.

My wife and I purchased two vacation homes during our marriage. I would like her to have one and I will take the other. Is this permitted under New Jersey law?

If your wife agrees to this proposal, if the proposal is fair and you do not force or coerce her into making this agreement, the two of you are free to come up with any reasonable settlement agreement that works for you both. If the two of you cannot come up with your own marital settlement agreement, then the court will have to make the decisions regarding your property and how it is divided. Depending on the entire situation, the houses can be separated as you describe or they can be ordered to be sold and any proceeds divided fairly between the two of you.

My boyfriend and I are going through a break-up after living together for almost 5 years. During that time, we adopted a cat. The fees were paid by him on his credit card. Do I have any custody rights to our cat?

While emotional attachments to our animals are very strong, the courts in New Jersey still view pets as property and not as family members. Since the two of you were not married, the family courts will not entertain a dispute between the two of you regarding property. This would be a matter for small claims or civil court.

The Answers You Need

For answers to your specific questions, please call us today to schedule your free consultation. Whether your asset and property issues involve your home and other real estate, business interests, stocks, 401 K and other retirement plans, inheritances, car, boats, furniture, or suspicions about hidden assets, our skilled and knowledgable divorce and family law attorneys can set you up with a strong legal strategy to help you achieve your goals.

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