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I Inherited Money From My Parents during our Marriage, Do I Need to Share That With My Soon-to-be Ex?

It depends on how and when the inheritance was used. The case law in the state of New Jersey provides that if with your inheritance you bought assets that you placed in your spouse’s name or in joint names, then those assets are presumed to be a gift to your spouse and you have to share those assets with him/her. The same is true if you place all or some of the money in an account in your spouse’s name or in joint names. The amount placed in your spouse’s name or in joint names is presumed a gift to your spouse. If, however, this was done close to the filing date of the complaint for divorce, then you can make an equitable argument that had you known your spouse wanted a divorce (or had engaged in conduct that led you to file for divorce such as an affair), you would never have gifted the money to your spouse and thus, your spouse should not get any of it or he/she should get less than 50%.

If you used any part of your inheritance or all of it to purchase an asset or assets in just your name, then it is exempt from equitable distribution and thus, your spouse does not share in it. However, you have the burden to prove that the money was in fact inherited and placed into the asset or assets as you claim. Thus, you need a paper trail that shows the money you inherited was deposited into the accounts and/or was used to purchase assets you allege they did.

However, even if an inheritance is exempt, it can be used for support purposes. If you or your spouse has an alimony and/or child support obligation, a court can impute interest on your inheritance or use the interest that your inheritance is generating and add it to your annual gross income for purposes of determining support. For example, if you have $500,000 inheritance that is exempt, a court could impute interest of 3% per annum and thus, $15,000 will be added to your gross annual income for purposes of determining support.

Jennifer Fortunato, Esq. Read More