Equitable distribution in New Jersey typically applies to the assets that either spouse obtained during the time of the marriage. It also applies to jointly obtained assets. The time range excludes the period after one spouse has filed a divorce complaint that remains pending. The time frame for marital assets typically covers the day the couple got married until the date of the filing of a divorce complaint.
As such, property that either spouse owned before the wedding and never gave or shared over to the other spouse during the marriage is generally not subject to equitable distribution at the time of the divorce.
Some assets are exempted despite falling inside the time frame
There are also some forms of property that, even if obtained during the marriage, remain excluded from distribution between the spouses at divorce time. For instance, a gift from a person outside of the marriage to one spouse will be that spouse’s separate property, despite its receipt during the marital period. Similarly, inheritances are separate property.
Separate assets can convert to marital assets
Note that gifts and inheritances otherwise excluded may convert to marital property under some circumstances. This can happen if the owning spouse commingles the gifted or inherited property with other property shared with the other spouse. For instance, if a spouse inherits money and then puts it into a joint bank account, that money may be marital property according to the courts.
If a spouse enters the marriage already owning a home and then puts the other spouse on the deed at some point, that house will become marital and lose its separate nature. Or, if a real estate-owning spouse sells the property that was separate and puts the proceeds into a joint account, those moneys can lose their separate status. Also, a present from a wife to husband, or vice versa, will typically be marital, despite being a gift.