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What makes property separate in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Oct 13, 2023 | Property Division |

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the divorce rate in 2021 in New Jersey was 2.2 per 1,000. Regardless of the reasons behind these divorces, the process can be complex and emotionally charged.

This is especially true when it comes to the division of property. One important aspect of this division is distinguishing between marital and separate property.

Separate property defined

Separate property includes assets that are not subject to division in a divorce. There are several ways property can fall into this category.

Any property either spouse owned before the marriage is generally separate. For example, if one spouse entered the marriage with a car or a house, that asset would be separate property.

Property a spouse received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage also falls in this category. However, it is important that the person keeps the asset separate from marital assets.

In some cases, couples may choose to designate certain assets as separate in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. If such an agreement is legally valid, the assets specified within it are separate property.

Commingling and tracing

Determining what qualifies as separate property can become complicated when assets commingle with marital property. Commingling occurs when separate and marital assets mix.

Tracing is a method to help separate commingled assets. It involves showing that a specific asset’s origin is separate, often by providing documentation or a paper trail. For example, if ya spouse used an inheritance to make mortgage payments on a jointly owned home, tracing could help establish the inheritance’s separate status.

To safeguard separate property in the event of a divorce, each spouse should maintain meticulous records. Keeping documents, such as deeds, inheritance records or financial statements, that clearly demonstrate the separate origin of your assets can make it much easier to divide property.