Trying to figure out how the New Jersey family courts will split up your assets in a divorce is nearly impossible. After all, the New Jersey courts apply the equitable distribution standard to property division in contested divorces.

If you and your ex can’t agree on terms for dividing up your property before you file, the courts will look at an inventory of your assets and your personal circumstances in order to determine the fairest way to split up your possessions.

Knowing what assets the courts will divide and what assets you can keep outright requires an understanding of the difference between marital property and separate property.

Most of what you’ve acquired during the marriage will be marital property

After your wedding, you and your spouse combined households and finances. Everything from the wedding gifts you received in both your names to the income you earned as individuals will be marital property shared between both of you.

Even assets like cars or debts like credit cards that only have one person’s name on the ownership documentation will still generally be marital property in the eyes of the New Jersey courts. The only exception would be if you purchase an asset during the marriage with your separate property, such as money held in your own account since prior to the marriage, or assets received as part of an inheritance.

What is separate property?

Separate property will remain the direct possession of one spouse. Assets that you owned prior to marriage often remain separate property. An inheritance is also separate property, even if you receive it during the marriage. Gifts from people other than your spouse also constitute separate property that you don’t have to share. Finally, anything you specifically protected as separate property in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement will typically also be exempt from division in a divorce.

However, it is possible to commingle separate property with marital assets, possibly by depositing funds into a shared account. Commingling may give your spouse a claim to some property that would otherwise be separate. Looking closely at your finances can give you a better idea of what will happen during the property division process in your New Jersey divorce.