Is Marital Home Subject To Equitable Distribution?
- July 25, 2014
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In Zamorsky v. Zamorsky, the Plaintiff, Michael Zamorksy, appealed from a 2012 Family Court Final Divorce Judgment because he claimed that the court made a mistake when it included his former marital residence as a marital asset subject to equitable distribution. The Plaintiff and the Defendant, Joyce P. Zamorsky, became engaged in September of 1999. The Plaintiff then signed a contract of sale for a house in November of 1999 which closed in December of that year. He paid a $68,000 deposit on the property with his own personal funds and he alone was named on the contract of sale, the mortgage, and the deed. He and the Defendant were married on December 31, 1999 and lived at this property for the length of their marriage. The marriage, the third marriage for each party, did not bear any children. The Plaintiff filed a Complaint for divorce in 2010 based upon irreconcilable differences. In 2012, during the parties’ divorce trial, the Plaintiff argued that the marital residence was a pre-marital asset that was exclusively his property. The Defendant asserted that the martial residence was bought in contemplation of their impending marriage and therefore should be considered to be a marital asset subject to equitable distribution. The Plaintiff testified that he purchased the house prior to the marriage and the parties did not even live in the residence until weeks after their marriage. Further, he claimed that the Defendant did not even see the house until after they were married and his plan all along was to leave the house to his children (from his prior marriages) and never intended to place the Defendant’s name on the deed. In addition, the Plaintiff stated that the parties kept their finances separate during the marriage and he, by himself, paid the mortgage, property taxes, and repairs on the home along with the majority of the household bills for the entire marriage. The Defendant’s testimony differed remarkably from that of the Plaintiff. She testified that the Plaintiff showed her the house shortly after they became engaged and even asked her opinion on it. She also maintained that she visited the residence on multiple occasions with the Plaintiff before the closing. She claimed that she did not apply for a mortgage or share in the mortgage with the Plaintiff because her credit was bad at the time of the purchase and that the Plaintiff promised to eventually put her name on the deed. In the Final Judgment of Divorce, the Family Court judge ordered that the Plaintiff was to retain his $68,000 down payment and the balance of the value of the property, minus the balance on the mortgage, was to be divided equally by the parties. In her decision, the judge found the Defendant’s testimony to be very credible. The judge found that “although the plaintiff may not have wanted to share title with the defendant, he told her that he would and she believed that the residence was purchased to be their joint possession,” and concluded that the house was purchased in contemplation of marriage and thus subject to equitable distribution. The Plaintiff appealed from this decision. The Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the lower court based upon the reasoning set forth in Sauro v. Sauro, 425 N.J. Super. 555, 573 (App. Div. 2012) and N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.1. The Plaintiff purchased the property only eleven (11) days prior to the parties’ marriage, the Plaintiff was asked her opinion on the property, and it was accepted by the court that the Plaintiff promised to add the Defendant’s name to the deed. The Appellate Court held that it owed deference to the finding of the Family Court that the Plaintiff’s testimony lacked credibility. N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. G.M., 198 N.J. 382, 396 (2009). Based upon the credible evidence reflecting that the property in question was bought in contemplation of marriage, the Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the lower court. The equitable distribution of assets and debts are of the most emotional and complex aspects of a divorce. If you are involved in a battle over the division of marital property, assets, or debts it is extremely important that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about equitable distribution, contested divorce, uncontested divorce, spousal support, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney.