Are you starting a divorce? You may be worried about dividing assets between you and your spouse. Here is what you need to know before calling a New Jersey divorce attorney.
Dividing Assets | Division of Assets
The first issue most spouses tackle is the division of assets. Whether it was many years ago or relatively recently, you and your spouse made a vow to share your lives – and that means sharing things, too. Lives are never joined at one clean seam, but entangled – and so too objects and other assets become entangled with an individual’s identity. While you might want a “clean break” from your marriage, it’s rarely that simple when it comes to the division of possessions and assets.
The division of assets starts with a discovery process, in which both parties exchange financial information. That doesn’t mean you stop at bank statements: potentially anything could be “discovered,” or requested, including property holdings, cars and boats, gambling winnings, retirement accounts, bonus packages, stocks, and even frequent flier miles. This might involve getting depositions from employers or other parties with relevant information, or subpoenaing information from investment houses and insurance providers. After the discovery process, both sides come to the table with an offer, and negotiation begins. If the parties can’t come to an agreement, the case may proceed to a trial.
Dividing Assets | What Can Be Divided
New Jersey is an “equitable distribution” state. That means that any assets acquired between the date of the marriage and the date one party filed a complaint for divorce are subject to be distributed “equitably” – which can often mean 50/50, though that isn’t necessarily the case.
Income, bonuses, retirement accounts, and property can be distributed. The list runs much longer – you’d be surprised by things that the court considers part of the marriage “pot.” An experienced attorney can help you figure out what assets in your case might be subject to distribution.
Some property will not be subject to distribution. Inheritance will stay with the inheritor. That includes money and stocks as well as things like furniture and other heirlooms. Items clearly associated with one spouse’s hobby will go to that spouse – for example, golf clubs, easels and paints, hunting trophies, etc. Collections that appreciate, however – like antique cars, coins, or artwork – count as investments, and will be subject to equitable distribution even if they are the exclusive passion of only one spouse. Everyday cars will also be split. If one spouse drives a BMW 7 Series and other drives a Gremlin, the court will add the value of both cars and divide that sum by two. It doesn’t matter who keeps which car, then: both are entitled to half the value of both combined.
It’s important to keep in mind that debts are subject to equitable distribution as well as assets: that could include mortgages, loans, and credit card debt.
Dividing Assets | Spouse Hiding Assets
In any high-asset divorce case, both parties will undergo a full and thorough asset search, including assets held out of state or overseas. You may end up hiring a CPA or forensic accountant to study your spouse’s bank statements and tax filings to look for discrepancies and red flags. (It’s unwise to hide assets – if found out, you’ve weakened your position in the eyes of the court, making yourself appear untrustworthy.) Most other countries will accept the jurisdiction of a divorce proceeding in New Jersey, but some don’t.
Do you have any further questions about dividing assets? Please call our New Jersey divorce attorney Brian Freeman today for a free consultation.