There are a lot of big decisions and big changes involved when someone goes through a divorce in New Jersey. One decision that must be made is what to do with the marital home. For most of us, the purchase of a home is the biggest purchase we will ever make, and the biggest investment we will ever make. So what happens to the marital home when spouses get divorced in New Jersey?
Is the Home Marital Property?
The first step is asking whether or not the marital home is the property of only one spouse—in which case it generally is not divided on divorce—or whether it is considered marital property, owned by both spouses.
Title in the home can be relevant, but it is not the determining factor in deciding whether or not a home is marital property. As a general rule, if a home was purchased during the marriage, it will be considered marital property.
If a spouse owned the home before the marriage, and then the parties were married, and title to the home did not ever change, the home may not be marital property, and thus not subject to division. But that’s not a hard and fast rule. If both parties contributed to the home, made payments on the home, took care of the home, or used marital funds to maintain the home, all or part of the value of the home could still be considered marital property.
Contributions to the Home
Sometimes, one spouse contributes a significant amount toward the marital home—say, the payment of the down payment. If the home is, in fact marital property, the contribution of the one spouse becomes marital property also. In other words, the unilateral payment by the one spouse is seen as a gift, and is “transformed” into marital property, if the home itself is marital property.
New Jersey is an equitable distribution state. That means that the court does not just split marital property 50/50 between the spouses, but rather, will divide marital property equitably.
So, for example, if Spouse A owned a home that he or she put a deposit down on, the parties get married, the home is titled in both their names, and they then get divorced one year later, the court may give the majority of the value of the home to the spouse who owned it before the marriage.
What to Do With the Home
If a home is marital property, the parties can agree to sell the house and divide the profits, or one spouse that may want to keep the home can buy out the other’s interest in it. If parties can agree and work together, they can also agree to divide the expenses, and keep the marital home for a period of time.
Contact our New Jersey Divorce attorneys at The Law Office of Agnes Rybar LLC for help and to answer your questions about your divorce.