Personal Property

Bergen County Lawyer Experienced in Equitable Distribution Matters

In a New Jersey divorce, all marital assets, including items of personal property, are distributed equitably between the spouses. In most cases, distribution of the personal items is very straightforward. Most couples are able to decide which personal items they want without the need for court intervention, or much legal direction. However, there are circumstances where deciding who will retain personal items like joint collections and sentimental gifts can become contested. If you would like advice or legal representation in a matter dealing with the equitable distribution of your marital personal property, Bergen County property division attorney Brian D. Iton can assist you. He has extensive experience guiding Northern New Jersey residents through this process.

Personal Property Division in a Divorce

Although some issues in a divorce (such as alimony or child support) may be revisited or modified under certain conditions following the issuance of a divorce decree, a final distribution of assets is extremely difficult to revisit in the absence of fraud or other misconduct. Consequently, despite the tediousness that may accompany a review of all of a couple’s assets, it is critical that great care is taken in compiling a complete listing and valuation of marital property prior to agreeing to any distribution plan.

Assets accumulated by a couple during their time together are characterized as separate or marital. Separate property is property that belongs to one spouse, either because they acquired the property prior to the marriage, or because they received the property as a gift or through inheritance. Separate property is not subject to equitable distribution. All other property which is not deemed separate property is marital property. Marital property is subject to equitable distribution.

A distinction also has to be made between real property and personal property. Real property is land or buildings attached to the land—houses, apartment buildings, commercial structures, etc. Personal property divided in a divorce usually includes:

  • Jewelry, artwork, furniture, rugs, and antiques;
  • Collectible items, such as coins, stamps, books, maps, and sports memorabilia;
  • Cars and other vehicles (like boats, RVs, motorcycles, or ATVs);
  • Home items, such as tools, pots, pans, utensils, appliances, dishes, computers, electronics, CDs, DVDs, decorations, photos, and linens.

When it comes to distribution, it is important to know the value of all of the personal property. A car may have depreciated significantly, for example, while a stamp collection may have become more valuable with time. Consequently, couples should consider whether any items need to be professionally appraised. Appraisals are usually performed by neutral third-party expert appraisers who can provide a written evaluation of the items appraised.

In reviewing their marital assets, it is important for the spouses to remember that even “personal” collections may be marital property if marital assets were used to acquire or enhance them. For example, if the husband has used marital funds to buy a series of motorcycles the motorcycles should be valued as marital assets, even if the wife does not ride them. The husband can retain the motorcycles post-divorce. However, he will first have to buyout the wife’s interest in the assets. Similarly, if the wife uses marital funds to buy items such as antiques, she can keep the antiques post-divorce. However, she will first have to buyout husband’s interest in them.

Contact a Property Division Attorney in Bergen County

For some couples, dividing personal property is a relatively simple affair, but nonetheless it should not be taken lightly. Even an agreement that seems to make sense may result in a skewed asset distribution if proper valuations are not performed. If you need assistance with this situation, call Bergen County lawyer Brian D. Iton at (201) 731-3086 or toll-free at (844) 431-3380, or use our contact form to set up a free appointment. Brian D. Iton represents people who need a divorce attorney throughout Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Passaic Counties, including in Hackensack, Newark, Jersey City, and Paterson.