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How Does a Court Determine Equitable Distribution in a NJ Divorce?

How Does a Court Determine Equitable Distribution in a NJ Divorce?

Understanding Equitable Distribution in NJ

For many, divorce is an uncomfortable, stressful, and frightening event. Throughout the process, divorcing spouses may find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to negotiate with their soon-to-be ex-partner about many issues, including the distribution of marital assets.

Unlike “community property” states that assume divorcing spouses will divide their assets equally, in New Jersey, spouses who are divorcing will typically go through a process known as equitable distribution. Equitable distribution focuses on distributing marital assets and debts fairly rather than equally. While most couples will ultimately agree on the distribution and division of assets when finalizing their divorce, some will be unable to. When couples are unable to reach an agreement about how to divide their assets, the court will conduct a trial without a jury to determine the most equitable way to distribute the parties’ assets. After trial, the court will apply a number of factors to determine how to equitably distribute marital property, including, but not limited to:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The value of the property
  • The parties’ ages and health condition
  • The income or property each party brought into the marriage,
  • The marital standard of living
  • The parties’ economic circumstances
  • The parties’ earning capacity

After a trial, the court will consider the above factors, among many others, and craft an order to distribute the marital property. It is important to note that if the divorcing spouses agree on how their assets (and debts, if applicable) are to be divided, the parties can avoid what can be a lengthy and costly trial. However, if the parties cannot agree on how to distribute any portion of the marital property, a trial is the only way to resolve the remaining issues.

What Marital Property is Subject to Equitable Distribution?

For the purposes of equitable distribution, marital property includes more than just real estate. In general, marital property is both real and personal property acquired by either spouse (or both) from the date of their marriage until the date a divorce complaint is filed.

Marital property that can be subject to equitable distribution can include, but is not limited to:

  • Real Estate
  • Cash
  • Cars
  • Artwork
  • Boats
  • Pensions and Retirement Accounts
  • Bank Accounts
  • Stocks and Investment Accounts

While most property acquired during the marriage will be considered marital property, there are some common exceptions that will be considered non-marital or separate property. These exceptions include some gifts from third parties, an inheritance, and personal injury settlement/judgment proceeds. Additionally, any property that either spouse acquired before the marriage will often, but not always, be considered separate property.

FSKS is on Your Side

Divorce in New Jersey can be complicated and fraught with difficult issues. That’s why it is crucial to enlist a skilled attorney to help you navigate the process. If you are facing or thinking about divorce, please contact Brian Kincaid (bkincaid@fskslaw.com) or Andrew Grenell (agrenell@fskslaw.com) at 973-538-4700 to schedule an initial consultation.