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Bellinger v. Bellinger

January 9, 1981

RICHARD C. BELLINGER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARGARET BELLINGER, DEFENDANT



Krafte, J.J.D.R.C., (temporarily assigned).

Krafte

Defendant-wife was the recipient of bequests during that period of her marriage governing accumulation of assets which would be subject to equitable distribution. She now claims at trial, that a recent legislative enactment excludes same from consideration as an asset subject to equitable distribution.

On December 31, 1980, the Governor signed what is commonly known as Assembly Bill No. 1229, amending N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 by the addition of the following clause relative to equitable distribution:

"However, all such property, real, personal or otherwise, legally or beneficially acquired during marriage by either party by way of gift, devise or bequest shall not be subject to equitable distribution, except that interspousal gifts shall be subject to equitable distribution."

In its original form (introduced in the Assembly on February 16, 1978, as No. 762), interspousal gifts were not mentioned. The Governor filed this bill without signature, in effect exercising a pocket veto. Said bill, therefore, never became law. The Governor specifically objected to exclusion of such interspousal gifts.

On February 28, 1980, another bill was introduced in the Assembly as No. 1229, containing language identical with the old No. 762, except that a short sentence was added stating that "interspousal gifts shall be subject to equitable distribution."

On March 24, 1980, the Assembly Judiciary, Law, Public Safety and Defense Committee issued an explanatory statement, stating specifically:

"The act is not retroactive, and does not apply to any judgment entered or any divorce action filed prior to the effective date of the act. The act does not affect any and all gifts, devises or bequests, regardless of when they were made or made effective."

On April 14, 1980, the Assembly adopted an amendment to 1229 stating that this act does not apply to any pending divorce action, thereby retaining inherited assets as assets subject to equitable distribution.

On June 9, 1980, the Senate Judiciary Committee adopted Assembly No. 1229 but deleted the amendment of April 14, 1980. Also on June 9th, the Senate Committee issued a statement containing, among others, the following language:

"The Assembly Judiciary Committee added language indicating that the provisions of Assembly No. 1229 shall not apply to divorce judgments already rendered or to any action for divorce which has already been filed. The Senate Judiciary Committee by amendment deleted this language. The Senate Judiciary Committee is of the view ...


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