While New Jersey is an equitable property state, this does not mean that all seemingly “personal” property will be safe from division in a divorce. Some spouses think that maintaining their own separate accounts provides financial protection if their marriages end, but the reality is more complex.
Under equitable property laws, money earned by each spouse is considered the property of each spouse in case of divorce. However, attorneys may sometimes successfully argue for a different type of settlement. People who are genuinely concerned about keeping assets separate in a divorce may want to consider a prenuptial agreement. In a survey from the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers, attorneys reported a rise in the number of prenuptial agreements, particularly among millennials. These agreements may be changed or even nullified later if the couple wants to do so. For couples who do not want to use a prenuptial agreement, printing out account statements for the month prior to the marriage can show what they are bringing into the marriage.
Inheritances should be kept separate from marital finances. This includes not co-mingling funds, such as using the inheritance for home repairs, since it could then be regarded as shared property.
An equitable division means that property is divided in a way that is fair, even if it’s not split 50/50. A couple with roughly equal resources and income may each walk away from a divorce with their own money. If there is a significant difference in income or other factors, however, one person may end paying more to the other. To help ensure a reasonable divorce arrangement, a soon-to-be ex may want to partner with a family law attorney.