woman holding purse

Many couples going through a divorce are uncertain about how to separate expensive personal items. To learn more, keep reading and give our legal team a call today to speak with our skilled Sparta divorce attorneys.

What is personal property vs. separate property?

Many people are unsure about the distinction between personal property and separate property. If you gave the item to your spouse as a gift, does this mean it belongs to just them? What about gifts from your spouse?

Note that each of these terms is a separate legal category. “Personal property” generally includes not only personal effects but also all other belongings except real estate. “Separate property” is any property, including real estate, that is not “marital property.” This is what you should take note of:

  • Property owned before marriage or obtained during marriage as an inheritance or a separate gift from a third party is separate property.
  • The property remains separate unless it is commingled (mixed in a way that cannot be disentangled) with marital property. NJSA 2A:34-23(h).
  • Property purchased during the marriage, including gifts from one spouse to the other, is marital property unless the funding source was separate property.

This suggests that if you gave your spouse an engagement ring before marriage, you no longer own it. However, presume you gave each other valuable items for birthdays, Christmas, or anniversaries during the marriage. In that case, those technically belong to both of you, unless one of you using your separate property for the purchase. If you owned a designer bag before marriage and after marriage, you sold it for $5,000, ownership counts on what you did with the money. If you kept it in a separate account, it is still yours. It is not if you put it into your joint checking account and spend it on combined expenses.

What is equitable distribution in New Jersey?

Any items restricted to marital property must be distributed equitably, signifying fairly, but not necessarily equally. Courts look at factors like how long you have been married; your current age and health; your employment history; any education or training you might need to be able to support yourself at a standard of living reasonably comparable to the marital standard; any contributions you made to your spouse’s education or earning power; and your custodial responsibilities for children. The New Jersey equitable distribution statute has more elements and requires courts to consider all relevant factors, whether listed or not. If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to reach out to our legal team today.

Contact Our New Jersey Firm

If you are getting a divorce or have any other questions regarding divorce-related matters, please do not hesitate to contact Paris P. Eliades Law Firm, LLC for a consultation today.