Equitable Distribution in NJ
In an ideal world, divorce would be simple. The parties would agree that divorce is in everyone’s best interests and they would reach a settlement that amicably resolves all issues pertinent to the divorce–child custody, spousal support, child support, and property distribution. Divorce, unfortunately, is rarely so simple. Spouses may disagree on any number of issues and it’ll be left to the court to decide who gets what. In New Jersey, if the parties cannot agree on the distribution of marital property, the court will decide based on the principles of equitable distribution. Below, we explain how equitable distribution works in New Jersey. If you are considering divorce or dealing with a property distribution dispute, call a knowledgeable New Jersey divorce and property distribution attorney for advice and assistance.
Marital Property vs. Separate Property
Before the property can be distributed among the parties, the parties and the court must ascertain which property is part of the marital estate. Marital property is subject to equitable distribution, while separate property is not; each party gets to retain ownership of their own separate property. The general rule is that any property acquired during the course of the marriage is marital property, while property acquired before the marriage or after filing for divorce is separate.
There are, however, special rules and complicating factors that can come into play. For example, certain types of property acquired during the marriage, such as inheritance, may remain separate property. On the other hand, a house purchased before marriage but which was substantially improved upon during the marriage might convert from separate to marital property. Your family law attorney can help you understand which property counts as marital and which is separate, and help you protect your valuable separate assets.
What Counts as Equitable Distribution?
New Jersey is an equitable distribution state. Equitable distribution is not the same as equal division. In community property states, each party owns 50 percent of all community property. If left to the court, the court will divide the community property 50/50 between the parties (or as close to 50/50 as physically possible), while each party will retain their separate property.
In an equitable distribution state, marital property is divided in a manner that is fair and equitable for the parties, considering the entirety of the parties’ circumstances, even if the split veers away from a perfect 50/50. A New Jersey court will evaluate several factors and attempt to resolve the distribution of property in a manner that is fundamentally fair for the parties. According to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.1, the family law court must consider factors including but not limited to:
- The duration of the marriage
- The physical and emotional health of each party as well as their age
- The income and property each spouse brought to the marriage
- Each spouse’s overall economic circumstances
- The standard of living during the marriage
- The income and earning capacity of each party, including their education, training, and experience, child custody responsibilities, and the time and expense necessary for each spouse to become self-supporting
- Each spouse’s assets, debts, and liabilities
- Each spouse’s contribution to the education, training, or earning potential of the other spouse
- Whether either spouse delayed their own career or education to support the marriage
- Each spouse’s contribution to marital property, including contribution as a homemaker
- Tax consequences of the property distribution
- Any other factor which the court deems relevant
The court must make a specific finding of fact on the evidence relevant to all property division issues, including whether an asset constitutes marital or separate property, the valuation of that property, and how that property should be distributed. The aim in all cases is to reach an overall distribution of property that serves the principles of fundamental fairness for the parties.
Call Our Accomplished New Jersey Property Distribution Law Firm Today for Representation
If you’re considering divorce or facing issues involving property distribution, alimony/spousal support, child support, child custody, or other family law issues in New Jersey, contact the skilled and dedicated Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation.