Nearly all property acquired by either party during the course of a marriage, regardless of whose name it is titled in, becomes marital property and is subject to equitable distribution by the Court. Additionally, the increase in value of any property owned by either party prior to the marriage is also marital property. So for example, if one party owns a house prior to marriage and then the divorce process begins ten years later any increase in the value of the house from the beginning of the marriage to the date of separation is marital property.
The only way to protect pre-marital property is with a pre-nuptial agreement, signed well in advance of the date of marriage. A pre-nuptial agreement can contain a variety of terms to protect both pre-marital and marital property and can set out the terms as to how a divorce should proceed if necessary.
The complication of children can have significant consequences on a pre-nuptial agreement and matters such as custody or child support often cannot be specified in such an agreement.