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Family law: Is jewelry regarded as marital property?

When it comes to divorce laws, New Jersey is an equitable distribution state in which the marital property is divided fairly -- though not necessarily equally. Assets brought into the marriage by each spouse will typically remain his or her property. Family law also determines that any gifts or inheritances received during the marriage by one spouse from third parties will continue to be the receiver's property as long as it is not commingled with marital property. If for example, a portion of one spouse's inheritance is used to renovate the family home, it becomes marital property absent a written agreement to the contrary.

Some people are shocked to learn that the jewelry they received from their spouses during their marriages is not regarded as separate property. The fact is that the purchase of the jewelry was funded by marital assets, and for that reason, the only way for one spouse to keep it in a divorce is to give up a similar value of other assets. This does not apply to an engagement ring that was purchased with personal funds prior to the marriage.

The above goes for all gifts received from a spouse and includes pieces of art, antiques and more. Other marital assets include real estate, bank accounts and all assets acquired during the marriage that were financed by marital funds. Personal property, purchased with personal funds such as an inheritance -- and kept separately in the name of the purchaser -- will remain separate. However, it could become marital property if, for instance, a spouse uses an inheritance to purchase an exotic sports car, registers it in his or her name to make sure it remains personal property, but then uses marital funds to pay for the engine to be serviced.

When New Jersey couples file for divorce, they are free to negotiate their own settlement agreements, and as long as the court is satisfied that property is divided in a manner that is fair to both, it will not interfere. The most beneficial way to handle such negotiations is for each spouse to secure the services of an experienced family law attorney who can provide advice and guidance throughout the process, including child-related matters and more. If helpful, the lawyer could arrange mediation to ease the negotiation process.

Source:, "Who keeps the jewelry in a divorce?", Gail Saukas, Accessed on Aug.18, 2017

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