How is Jewelry Division Handled in the Divorce Process?
Property acquired during the marriage by any spouse is considered marital property, including jewelry. If there is no previous agreement, then a judge will decide the fate of the valuable objects.
The New Jersey Family Courts follows an equitable distribution model for the separation of assets in a divorce. Unlike the handful of states that follow the community property model – separating assets down the middle – the equitable distribution model follows different standards. Marital assets can include a diverse number of financial savings, investments, and materials. Read on to learn more about the New Jersey equitable distribution model and what that means for the separation of marital assets, particularly jewelry.
Is Jewelry Subject to Property Division in a Divorce?
The separating couple’s attorneys – sometimes with the help of a forensic accountant – or the Superior Court: Family Part in the case of a divorce litigation, determine the total valuation of assets and then, based on each spouse’s contribution to the marriage, they determine an equitable distribution of those marital assets. Equitable distribution is the fair division of marital assets in a divorce.
While division of assets is equitable, it is not necessarily equal. The model maintains that certain aspects make the ownership of marital property unequal. Such considerations include the economic contribution of each spouse to the marriage, the educational training and professional prospects of each spouse, whether one spouse forfeited a career to raise children or care for the home, the age and health of each spouse, the standard of living the couple has enjoyed during their legal partnership, and potential future financial needs of each spouse due to illness or medical condition, among others considerations.
That said, some jewelry is considered a marital asset in a divorce settlement. The determining factor for whether jewelry acquired during a marriage is considered a marital asset or whether it is personal property depends on whether it was a gift, and further, whether it was a gift between spouses or a gift from someone outside of the marriage.
Are Jewelry Gifts Included as Marital Assets In New Jersey?
Gifts obtained from outside of the marriage are the separate property of the receiver. In other words, gifts are excluded from marital property if they are given to one spouse from a third party. This means that if you receive a gift of jewelry from anyone other than your spouse, that jewelry is yours and is not deemed part of the marital property to be divided. However, if you buy yourself an expensive piece of jewelry during the marriage, it is considered a marital asset because you share finances with your spouse.
On the other hand, gifts from one spouse to another are considered marital property, and as such, they are subject to equitable distribution during the divorce. This is called the “marital gift exception,” because in general, gifts received by a spouse are that spouse’s personal property unless the gift came from their partner during the course of the marriage.
Will I Lose My Engagement Ring?
It is essential that you have the support of a skilled and experienced family law attorney because there have been conflicting judgments regarding engagement rings. Simply put, an engagement ring is considered a pre-marital asset because it was given before the marriage. Therefore, the engagement ring cannot be taken in a divorce (or separated from its owner as a marital asset subject to New Jersey’s equitable distribution laws). However, the same does not go for wedding rings, which are considered marital property.
On the other hand, in four prior cases in New Jersey, including the most recent case, Aronow v. Silver (1987), the Superior Court has determined that an engagement ring is a conditional gift; and, adhering to the no-fault rule, regardless of whose fault the end of the engagement it must be returned to the giver when the condition of marriage is not met. If the couple does get married, however, the receiver of the ring has upheld their promise, and the conditions of the gift of the ring have been met; as such, it should stand that the ring cannot be taken from the spouse, who received the gift before the marriage and fulfilled the condition of its giving.
How Are Inherited Jewelry And Family Heirlooms Distributed?
Inheritances are the explicit property of the inheritor; as such, they are not considered marital property. In the case of property, however, if the couple invests in an inherited property using shared resources, the spouse can argue in the divorce that the property is to now be considered shared. As far as jewelry is concerned, however, unless it can be proven that a piece of inherited jewelry or an heirloom was gifted to the spouse, it is not considered marital property.
Worried About Your Personal Jewelry in Your Divorce in New Jersey? Contact Divorce and Family Law Attorney Mr. Edward Cooper.
There are so many nuances when it comes to the valuation of assets and their equitable distribution that having a skilled family law attorney is a non-negotiable. A family law attorney will help you in the asset valuation of your marital properties and ensure that the considerations are taken to determine equitable distribution respond to your contributions to the marriage, resulting in a fair and ample distribution that gets you headed into your future with resourced poise.
Are you divorcing and are concerned that your personal jewelry and family heirlooms will be taken from you? We make it our business to ensure that our clients in East Brunswick, Westfield, Edison, Hillside, Cranford and nearby communities in Union County and northern Middlesex County, are well-represented and protected when it comes to asset distribution in a divorce.
We understand the importance of your precious family items and the memories they contain, and at Mr. Edward Cooper, Esq, we work to protect them. Contact us at (908) 481-4625 for a consultation to discuss your divorce.