Control Over Personal Property in Divorce

At the conclusion of a divorce, the judge will make a final order for child custody, spousal support, debt division, and asset division. The issue of asset division can be particularly complicated in some cases. In New Jersey, the judge will make an equitable division of the parties’ marital assets at the final hearing if the parties are unable to come to an agreement. In the vast majority of cases, items like couches, dishes, and towels can be easily replaced and therefore are not too difficult to divide. The real problems can come with items of high sentimental value such as family photos and family heirlooms.

Almost all property received during a marriage is marital property that is subject to division during a divorce. There are some exceptions, however, including property received by either spouse by inheritance. Therefore, if you inherit a certain piece of property while you are married, that property is separate property and your spouse has no claim in the divorce. This assumes that the property has stayed separate from your spouse’s property. When the item inherited is your grandmother’s wedding ring or a grandfather clock, this is usually straightforward and easy to determine. If you vacate the marital residence during your divorce proceedings, you may want to consider taking these family heirlooms with you to avoid them being destroyed or sold by a vindictive spouse. As with removing any property from the marital residence, though, you should consult your attorney before doing so.

Family photographs are another item that can be totally unreplaceable, but still require division in a divorce. Unlike family heirlooms, family photographs are marital property. Especially when the spouses share children, it is likely that both parties will want their share of the photographs. Luckily with the easily accessible nature of scanners and computers, it is not difficult to make digital copies of some or all of the family photographs. If you anticipate a divorce, you may be wise to start making digital copies of your family photographs. Although it is rare, there are some angry or hurt spouses who would destroy family photographs as a revenge tactic against the other spouse. Making digital copies and then storing those copies off site, somewhere like a cloud or a hard drive you keep at your office, can make it difficult or impossible for your angry spouse to destroy the record of the family memories.

Property division during divorce can get complicated and you need an experienced attorney to help you through it. at (732) 529-6937 and we can talk about your property and the likely way a court may divide it.

About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

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