How Will Assets Be Divided in a Divorce?
When parties get divorced, very often one of the big issues is how to divide the assets (and debts). This process is called “equitable distribution,” where the couple’s marital assets and liabilities are divided in a way that is equitable, or fair, but not necessarily equal. Some states automatically divide everything 50/50, but that is not the case in New Jersey.
Brief Overview of the NJ Equitable Distribution Process
- Identify All of the Marital Property
In order to equitably divide property, the court must first determine which items are considered marital, things that will be divided, versus assets that are considered separate property (and not subject to equitable distribution). Some examples might include the marital home, cars, furnishings, credit card debt, among many others.
- Determine the Value of the Marital Property
Once marital assets and liabilities have been identified, they then must be valued. If the asset is a savings account, for example, it is a pretty straightforward process. You just look at the bank statement. However, some assets are much more complicated and usually require an expert to determine the value. Examples might include a personally owned business, retirement plan, or an employee benefit plan that includes various types of stock options, to name just a few.
- Equitably Divide the Marital Property
After marital assets and obligations have been identified and valued, the court will then divide everything in a way it believes is equitable and fair to both parties. When doing so, the court will consider the factors listed in New Jersey Statute N.J.S.A. 2A: 34-23.1, which are as follows:
a.The duration of the marriage or civil union;
b. The age and physical and emotional health of the parties;
c. The income or property brought to the marriage or civil union by each party;
d. The standard of living established during the marriage or civil union;
e. Any written agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage or civil union concerning an arrangement of property distribution;
f. The economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property becomes effective;
g. The income and earning capacity of each party, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage or civil union;
h. The contribution by each party to the education, training or earning power of the other;
i. The contribution of each party to the acquisition, dissipation, preservation, depreciation or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property, or the property acquired during the civil union as well as the contribution of a party as a homemaker;
j. The tax consequences of the proposed distribution to each party;
k. The present value of the property;
l. The need of a parent who has physical custody of a child to own or occupy the marital residence or residence shared by the partners in a civil union couple and to use or own the household effects;
m. The debts and liabilities of the parties;
n. The need for creation, now or in the future, of a trust fund to secure reasonably foreseeable medical or educational costs for a spouse, partner in a civil union couple or children;
o. The extent to which a party deferred achieving their career goals; and
p. Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.
Like many other aspects of divorce, every situation is unique and the court's decision regarding equitable distribution is specific to the unique facts of each case. There is no way to predict with 100% certainty what a judge will decide in your case.
If you would like to speak with a divorce lawyer in the Toms River area, contact The Law Office of Jill Jedrusiak, LLC. We are here to help guide you through the divorce process.
Phone: (732) 719-2202
Fax: (732) 483-6888
1410 Hooper Ave., 2nd Floor
Toms River, New Jersey