How is Property Divided in a New Jersey Divorce
Most people have a general understanding that, in the event of divorce, property owned by the spouses will be divided up and distributed to each party. Each state, however, has its own set of rules regarding what types of property will be divided and precisely how that property will be divvied up. What is the difference between a “community property” and an “equitable distribution” state? How do things work in New Jersey? Continue reading to learn about property distribution in a New Jersey divorce, and if you have questions about dividing property in your New Jersey divorce, call a knowledgeable New Jersey property division attorney for help.
New Jersey is Not a Community Property State
Some states, like California, are “community property” states. In a community property state, each spouse is entitled to a 50% share of all community property–that is, property deemed to belong to the marriage. Everything will be split 50/50 unless there are specific grounds to do things differently.
New Jersey is not a community property state. Instead, New Jersey follows the rule of “equitable distribution.” Equitable distribution means that marital property will be distributed fairly between the parties, which does not always end up in a 50/50 split.
What is Equitable Distribution?
Equitable distribution means the distribution of property under the principles of equity and fairness. Rather than defaulting to a 50% share of marital property for each party, the court will assess a variety of factors to determine each party’s fair share of the marital estate.
What Property is Subject to Division?
All assets deemed “marital property” are subject to division in a New Jersey divorce. Marital assets include any property acquired during the marriage, other than property acquired through inheritance or gift (so long as the gift was specifically intended to go to one spouse rather than to the couple or family). Property may include bank accounts, stocks, family businesses, the family home and other real estate, vehicles, social security and other retirement benefits, life insurance, as well as debts. Property acquired before the marriage is excluded unless there is an argument that the separate property was “commingled” with marital assets (for example, if funds from a separate bank account are deposited into a joint account).
Factors Affecting Property Distribution in New Jersey
The parties are free to decide upon property distribution themselves in a marital settlement agreement. Assuming the parties cannot resolve the matter alone, the family court will step in to evaluate the couple’s circumstances and render a decision. The court will weigh a number of factors in order to reach a decision on the equitable distribution of each asset, including but not limited to:
- The length of the marriage
- The age and health of each party
- The economic circumstances of each party
- The value of the property being divided
- Tax consequences of the distribution
- The established standard of living during the marriage
- Written agreements entered into before or during the marriage (e.g., prenuptial agreements)
- The contribution of each party to the education or earning capacity of the other spouse
- Income and property brought into the marriage by each party
- The current income and earning capacity of each party, including an evaluation of the time and expense it would take for each party to acquire the training, education, and experience to reach the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
The court will take stock of all marital assets, consider all relevant factors, and issue a decision concerning the distribution of the marital assets between the parties. Some types of assets, such as ownership shares of a family business, may require special consideration and even professional evaluation from financial experts. Each party has the right to advocate for their fair share of each marital asset, with assistance from their divorce attorney.
Seasoned Advice and Representation for Your New Jersey Property Distribution Matter
If you need effective legal help with property distribution, child custody, child visitation, premarital agreements, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.