Married couples can share property without sharing the financial responsibility. It is not uncommon for couples to have only one spouse listed on a credit card, loan or even a property – even though that asset or liability is considered “marital” property. One key issue couples need to be aware of is that it does not matter which spouse is listed on the asset or liability. If the courts consider it a “marital” asset, then it is subject to equitable distribution.
Most spouses mistakenly believe that if their name is the only one listed on the asset, the other spouse does not have to share in it during the division of assets. However, this is not true. If you or your spouse has assets in their name only, it will come down to whether or not that asset is a marital or non-marital asset.
What is a Marital Asset?
All assets that have been acquired during the marriage or gifted to the couple are considered marital assets – regardless of which spouse’s name the asset is in. These can include:
- Real estate
- Bonds, cash, stocks and savings accounts
- Retirement accounts, pension plans, 401(K) and other retirement funds
- Businesses owned by one or more spouses
- Life insurance policies
Some liabilities that can be considered marital property include:
- Debts owed to banks or other lending institutions
- Credit cards
- Unpaid bills – including medical expenses
- School loans
What If There Is a Pre-Nuptial Agreement?
Any property that is delineated in a prenuptial agreement is not considered a marital asset. A prenuptial agreement is one that is signed into prior to the marriage and often lists pre-marital assets that will remain protected if a divorce occurs in the future. As long as the agreement is valid and enforceable, the courts will honor it.
Points to Remember With Equitable Distribution
The term “equitable” is often misleading in a divorce case. When you are looking over your assets for division, there are a few things you will want to remember about equitable distribution:
- The term “equitable” does not always mean a 50/50 split of the marital assets.
- Title will never count and it does not matter which spouse is listed on the asset.
- It is your job to list marital assets – the courts do not do it for you. Therefore, you need to make sure you uncover all assets and that your spouse is not hiding any assets.
- Every asset acquired during the marriage, except gifts given exclusively to you or your spouse, are eligible to distribution.
- Assets that the other spouse has dissipated during the divorce proceeding are still considered “marital assets” and therefore they can be part of the equitable distribution process.
Speak With an NJ Attorney Regarding Your Division of Assets
If you are unsure which assets are eligible for distribution and which assets are not, speak with a skilled New Jersey attorney. Romanowski Law Offices can help you identify your marital assets and non-marital assets for distribution. Contact us online or call 732-603-8585 to schedule a free consultation.