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The Downside of Wealth – Splitting Up Your Property in Divorce is Can Be Complicated

By Snyder & Sarno on July 09, 2015


Litigation over assets in a divorce can take a long time to resolve.  For a lot of people, it’s bad enough to try to divide your marital home.  Who gets to keep the house and who has to move out?  Or should we sell it, pay off the mortgage, and each use the remaining money to get new places?  When a couple owns multiple properties, splitting up all those properties can be even trickier.  This is especially true when a piece of property was obtained before the marriage, but both lay claim to it.

In Ringelstein v. Schmidt, the New Jersey Appellate Division was tasked with ensuring equitable distribution of a divorcing couple’s properties.  The couple owned and operated several properties over the course of their 22-year marriage.  The trial judge decided that all but two of the properties were subject to equitable distribution.  She noted that Mr. Schmidt had purchased these two properties before the marriage, so Ms. Ringelstein was not entitled to an equitable share of the properties.  In addition, the judge held Ms. Ringelstein liable for half of the debt that Mr. Schmidt owed his mother.  Finally, the judge decided that Mr. Schmidt had to reimburse his ex-wife $50,000 toward her legal fees, and she would not have to pay half of the carrying costs of two marital properties until they were sold.

Unsurprisingly, both Ms. Ringelstein and Mr. Schmidt appealed from the judge’s decisions.  Ms. Ringelstein said that she is entitled to her equitable share of all the properties, including the two that Mr. Schmidt purchased prior to their marriage.  She further argued that she should not be stuck with half of the money her ex-husband borrowed from his mother, especially if the money was used toward properties that are exempt from equitable distribution. 

The appellate panel largely affirmed the trial judge’s rulings.  It decided, however, that Ms. Ringelstein’s challenges warranted sending the case back down to the trial court to make additional findings on only two issues.  One issue is whether the loan from Mr. Schmidt’s mother was attributed to a property to which Ms. Ringelstein could not lay claim.  The other issue is whether Ms. Ringelstein should bear half of the carrying costs of a couple properties until they sell.

If you are currently going through a divorce, or have an issue with division of property, contact the skilled matrimonial attorneys at Snyder & Sarno, LLC.  The attorneys at Snyder & Sarno are experienced in handling cases where the parties share assets.  Call us today at (973) 274-5200.

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