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How to Divide Pricey Marital Items in a NJ Divorce

Many couples going through a divorce are unsure about how to divide pricey personal items. To learn more, continue reading and give our legal team a call today to speak with our skilled Morris County NJ divorce lawyers.

What is personal property vs. separate property?

Many people are unsure about the difference 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?

Keep in mind that each of these terms is a different legal category. “Personal property” typically 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 separate property stays separate unless it is commingled (mixed in a way that cannot be disentangled) with marital property. NJSA 2A:34-23(h).
  • Property bought during the marriage, including gifts from one spouse to the other, is marital property unless the source of funding was separate property.

This means that if you gave your spouse an engagement ring before marriage, you no longer own it. However, suppose you gave each other valuable items for birthdays, Christmas, or anniversaries during the marriage. In that instance, those technically belong to both of you, unless one of you using your own separate property for the purchase. If you owned a designer bag before marriage and after marriage, you sold it for $5,000, ownership depends 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 specified to be marital property must be allocated 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 factors and requires courts to consider all relevant factors, whether listed or not. To learn more, reach out to our legal team today.


If you need an experienced legal team to guide you through your divorce, contact Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark L.L.C today.