Property that either spouse acquired during the marriage is considered part of the marital estate. Upon divorce, the marital property is subject to “equitable distribution,” which means a fair, but not necessarily equal, division of the property. There are a few exceptions to this principle. The following generally are not subject to equitable distribution:
• Property that a spouse owned before the marriage
• Property that a spouse inherited during the marriage
• Gifts that a spouse received during the marriage from someone besides the other spouse
• Damages awarded to a spouse during the marriage for personal injuries
However, the nonmarital property can become marital property if it is co-mingled with marital property. For example, separate money deposited in a joint investment account is likely to be considered a joint asset. Also, if joint assets are used to maintain or improve a separate asset, the resulting appreciation becomes a marital asset. If, for example, joint funds are spent to fix up an individually owned house, the resulting increase in value of the house is a joint asset. It is important to know that marital debt is also equitably distributed between the parties. Lauren Abramson helps you determine which assets are likely to be subject to equitable distribution.