What If Your Marital Home Was Bought Prior to the Marriage?

By Lois G. Schwartz | January 27, 2023

selling the family home in cherry hill njThe Family Home

Did you purchase the home you’ve enjoyed in your marriage prior to getting married? If so, the person who bought the home is usually the one who is legally allowed to keep the home if the marriage ends in divorce. But, it’s also possible for the other spouse to be eligible for some of the equity in the house because they lived there while married to the owner and may have contributed to improvement and expenses. There’s also the possibility that the owner of the home added their spouse to the deed after they were married, which is deemed a gift to the marriage. This can complicate things immensely when getting divorced and the original owner wishes to keep the marital home.

An Agreement

Did you enter into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement with your spouse? If so, you must legally look at the terms of this agreement when getting divorced. The agreement terms will tell you what can and cannot be done with the home. For example, the agreement might keep the home with the spouse who originally purchased it, or it might say that the home must be sold and the profits must be split between the spouses. The agreement could also state that the spouse who didn’t purchase the home is eligible for equity accrued during the time the couple lived in the home.

Division of Property

In New Jersey, when a couple gets divorced, the property they own will be distributed equitably by the court if the divorce reaches trial. If the couple can come to an agreement on their own, with the help of their attorneys, or with the help of a mediator then they can divide their property however they see fit. If there is a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement present they must follow the terms of that agreement.

When divorcing in New Jersey you will be required to show the deed to your home. Whoever has their name on the home is the legal owner. So, if there is only one spouse’s name on the deed, they are the owner. But, if both spouses names are on the deed, both have an equal ownership in the property. The court will attempt to divide the property equitably, which does not always mean fairly, when a couple divorces in New Jersey.

What if the Value of the Home Increased?

It’s not uncommon for the value of a home to increase during the duration of the marriage. If this happened in your case it could mean that the non-owner spouse is eligible for compensation based on the equity gained during the marriage in the home. The two most common occurrences are when the non-owner spouse spent a lot of time and money improving the appearance of the home or helped pay down what is owed on the mortgage for the home. The final factor in such a situation will be whether or not the increase in value was passive or active. Passive increase in a home’s value comes from the market circumstances and not what the non-owner spouse did to improve the home.

Contact a Cherry Hill Family Law Attorney for a Consultation About Divorce in New Jersey Today

If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or if you have already started the divorce process and are dealing with another matter such as child custody, child support, or division of assets, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. New Jersey family law attorney Lois Garber Schwartz, Esquire represents clients throughout the county area, including Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Voorhees, and Medford. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at 856-375-8989 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 1040 Kings Highway N., Suite 202, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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    Lois Garber Schwartz

    1040 Kings Highway N., Suite 202

    Cherry Hill, NJ 08034


    Phone: 856-375-8989

    Fax: 856-482-0343