Is a Pre-Marital Gift Part of the Marital Estate?

May 21, 2015

In Iraldi v. Iraldi, a recent unpublished New Jersey Appellate Division case, Plaintiff appealed a trial court order that included the marital home and the land it was situated on as marital property.  Plaintiff received some of the land from his parents prior to the couple’s marriage.  After the couple married, they purchased other land that they then combined with the land that Plaintiff’s parents gave to him to build the marital home.    

Defendant testified that Plaintiff acquired the property and the couple made plans for building the house around the time that they became engaged.  The trial judge concluded that Defendant’s testimony was credible and that the land and home were built in contemplation in marriage.  On appeal, however, Plaintiff argued that the land he received from his parents was a pre-marital gift that should not be subject to equitable distribution. 

The Appellate Division began by recounting the general rule that property acquired by either party before marriage is not considered marital property.  See Tannen v. Tannen, 416 N.J. Super. 248, 281 (App. Div. 2010).  In addition, any property that is acquired as a gift or through an inheritance is generally considered to be separate property.  N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(h).  However, property acquired before the marriage could still be considered marital property if it is received in contemplation of marriage.  See Winer v. Winer, 241 N.J. Super. 510, 527 (App. Div. 1990).  Ultimately, the Appellate Division found that Plaintiff acquired the property with intent to use it in his marital partnership, and thus, it was subject to equitable distribution. 

If you are going through a divorce and property division is an issue, call the experienced matrimonial attorneys at Sarno da Costa D’Aniello Maceri LLC for help with your case.  Contact us today at (973) 274-5200.