If you are not married, and therefore, not getting a divorce, yet you live together in a house that where you have been paying the mortgage and taxes, as your partner’s parents own the property, you may be considered just a renter when it comes time for your relationship to end. You must be aware of your property rights in your relationship. If you are married and the house you are living in with your spouse was purchased before the marriage, again, you have to be aware of your rights in a marriage as to real property and what may be equitable distribution of that property in the future if in fact you have a New Jersey divorce.
If there are no substantial improvements and the marriage is of a short term, it may be determined that you have essentially been a renter during the time of your marriage and you will obtain no property rights for equitable distribution of the property if the mortgage and deed are not in your name and the property was not purchased in anticipation of marriage.
If, however, you have made substantial improvements and contributed have your marital income to improve the property, there may be a case for you to receive part of the accrual in value of the marital property. You will have to have the property appraised to determine if that is the case and if your contributions also contributed to the increased value in the property.
Generally, an independent appraisal is done in order to determine what the fair market value of the property is at the time of any equitable distribution. A CMA or comparable market analysis of comparable properties in your area can be done by a real estate agent or you can obtain an FMV online at companies such as Zillow or others, but, generally, that will not be an independent appraisal by an independent appraisal company that is of true market value.
Also, a bank appraisal is not an appraisal that is of value when considering equitable distribution of the property. Any bank appraisal is going to be directly related to the deal in question, whether that is a refinance or sale of the property and it should be looked at with great skepticism, as the appraisal company has appraised the property in the interest of the bank often, without an independent review of the property. Often there are independent bank appraisal companies in your area in New Jersey that will do the appraisal for approximately $300-$500, and, generally the parties to a divorce should share the costs of any appraisal.
Finally, parties to a divorce may wish to use the appraisal to transfer other equity in the marriage in its stead, such as a 401k, 403b, IRA or other tax deferred asset. It must be certain to make sure you are using dollar for dollar analysis when dealing with tax deferred dollars vs. after tax dollars such as money from real estate that is an interest being transferred for purposes of equitable distribution. In such cases, tax deferred dollars must be tax affected in order to be used for equitable distribution for real estate in a marriage so that it is after tax dollars being transferred for after tax dollars, an equal transfer. Often a tax consultant or financial advisor is helpful in evaluating these situations as well.
If you need assistance in the equitable distribution of your real estate in a New Jersey divorce, call us at Green & Associates, at 732-390-0480 or 201-242-1119 for a free consultation with our NJ divorce lawyer and NJ divorce attorney in our East Brunswick divorce and Fort Lee divorce offices.