Court considers cohabitation period for divorce settlement

New Jersey residents who get married and then divorced commonly think about having to divide assets based upon what is considered marital property. For most couples, this includes assets obtained during the marriage. It may also include assets brought to the marriage that eventually became comingled. However, the wedding date commonly starts the clock, as it were, as to when marital assets are said to be in existence, even if a couple lived together prior to getting legally married. This then directs a divorce settlement to some degree.

This principle is essentially being questioned in a recent case that just went in front of the New Jersey Supreme Court. It involves a couple that was married for just over one year but that lived together for eight years. They even had a child together during their eight years of cohabitation. As part of their divorce settlement, a judge awarded the former wife a portion of a bonus that the man received shortly after the divorce. This was granted because much of the work was done during the marriage.

However, the woman has appealed and pushed the decision to the higher court, insisting that she deserves a larger portion of the bonus based upon the time over which the couple lived toether, not just based upon the 14 months that they were married.

People who live together or get married and find their relationships struggling may find it beneficial to talk with an attorney. This may be a valuable opportunity to understand some special circumstances, such as with the bonus in the above-referenced case.

Source: New Jersey Law Journal, "N.J. Supreme Court Hears Dispute Over $2.25M Post-Divorce Bonus After Short Marriage," Michael Booth, Sept. 26, 2016