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Understanding Equitable Distribution in New Jersey Divorce Cases

An adult woman and a man, sitting at a table in the office, fill out documents or forms. The concept of a marriage contract, agreement or divorce proceedings. Without a face.

When a marriage ends in divorce, one of the most complex issues couples face is the division of their assets and debts. New Jersey, like many states, follows the principle of equitable distribution. This means that marital property is divided in a manner that is fair and just, but not necessarily equal. This approach is distinct from community property states, where assets are typically split 50-50. Below, we explore how equitable distribution works in New Jersey and how it differs from community property, and we take a look at the key factors considered by the courts in the property division when the parties can’t agree on how to do it themselves. For help with the property division in your divorce in Union, Essex, or Middlesex County, contact the Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro to speak with a skilled and experienced Union family law attorney.

What Is Equitable Distribution?

Equitable distribution is a legal principle used to divide property and debts between spouses during a divorce. It is based on the idea that marriage is a partnership and both spouses have contributed, in some way, to the accumulation of assets and debts. Therefore, upon dissolution of the marriage, it is only fair that these are divided equitably.

Equitable Distribution vs. Community Property

It’s important to understand that equitable distribution is not the same as community property, which is the law in nine states including California and Texas. In community property states, all marital assets are divided equally (50-50) between the spouses. In contrast, equitable distribution states like New Jersey consider a variety of factors to determine a fair division, which may not always result in an equal split.

Factors Considered in Equitable Distribution

New Jersey courts consider several factors when determining how to equitably distribute assets and debts, including:

  1. Duration of the Marriage: The length of the marriage can influence the division of assets. Generally, longer marriages may result in a more equal division.
  2. Age and Health of Each Spouse: The physical and emotional health of each spouse can impact their ability to earn income and their needs post-divorce.
  3. Income and Earning Capacity: The court will consider each spouse’s current income and future earning potential.
  4. Standard of Living During the Marriage: The lifestyle established during the marriage is taken into account to ensure that neither spouse experiences a drastic change in living standards.
  5. Contributions to the Marriage: This includes both financial contributions and non-financial contributions, such as homemaking and raising children.
  6. Economic Circumstances: The financial situation of each spouse at the time of the division is considered.
  7. Debts and Liabilities: The division of debts is also part of the equitable distribution process.
  8. Any Written Agreements: Prenuptial agreements or other written contracts between the spouses can influence the distribution of assets.

Types of Property Subject to Equitable Distribution

Not all property is subject to division in a divorce. In New Jersey, only marital property is divided, which includes assets and debts acquired during the marriage. Separate property, which is property acquired before the marriage or through inheritance or gift during the marriage, is generally not subject to division.

The Role of the Court

The court has significant discretion in determining what is equitable in each case. The process involves identifying marital assets, valuing them, and then deciding on an appropriate division. It’s important to note that equitable does not always mean equal. The court’s goal is to achieve a fair outcome based on the circumstances of each case.

If the parties can reach agreement with each other regarding how to divide the property, the court will generally ratify any marital settlement agreement they create, so long as the court deems it to be fair. The Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro represents clients in negotiations and mediation to arrive at a property division that meets their needs and is likely to meet court approval. Only if this process cannot yield agreement is it necessary to bring the matter before the court to decide in the adversarial litigation process.

Contact the Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro for Help With the Equitable Distribution of Marital Property in Union, New Jersey, Divorce Cases

If you are going through a divorce in Union, Essex, or Middlesex counties, the Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro is here to provide the guidance and support you need during this challenging time, including a fair division of property, child custody and support orders, alimony and any other issues you may need to address. Call the Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro today at 908-964-0102.

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