When the spouses decide to divorce, there will be many issues the parties need to address.  The spouses will have to think about child custody, who will take which vehicle, and whether either of them can afford to keep the marital residence, just to name a few.  One of the central issues in many divorce cases is the distribution of property.  New Jersey is what is called an “equitable distribution” state.  This means that in a divorce, the judge will equitably distribute the parties’ marital assets.  Equitable does not always mean equal, and the judge will look to a list of factors set out in New Jersey statutes to determine how the assets should be divided.  The courts will not, however, divide separate property.  Separate property is typically property owned by either party before the marriage started, or property received during the marriage through devise, gift, or certain types of law suit proceeds.  The parties will each leave the marriage with their separate property providing, that is, that the separate property was never commingled with marital property.

“Commingling” is the legal term used to refer to when parties mix their separate property together with their marital property.  When the parties commingle separate and marital assets, the separate property will become marital property and will be subject to division in the divorce.  For example, if the wife’s father passes away and leaves wife a lump sum cash inheritance, that inheritance is her separate property and the husband would not receive any portion in the divorce, if wife keeps that inheritance in a separate account and does not use the proceeds for marital purposes.  However, if the wife were to instead deposit that inheritance into an account she holds jointly with her husband and they use the contents of the account to pay marital bills, that inheritance is likely now marital property and subject to division in divorce.

Commingling can be a question of degree, however. In one New Jersey appellate court case, for example, one spouse received an inheritance and deposited that into a joint account that contained only $50 at the time the deposit was made.  The sum then remained untouched and no other funds were deposited into that account.  The court determined that the inheritance had not been sufficiently commingled to become marital property.

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Commingling is an important issue in divorce, and we have extensive experience helping our clients understand how it may impact their case.  Call today for a consultation.

Are you interested in seeking an annulment? If so, contact Williams Law Group, LLC right away. Our family law attorneys will review your case to determine if an annulment is an option. If it is, we will guide you through the process and ensure you make the best decisions for your future. Call our office at (908) 738-8512, email us, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation

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