Are you pursuing a divorce in New Jersey? If so, you might wonder what this could mean for your finances, retirement accounts, and other assets. New Jersey is what is called an “equitable distribution” state. Different states use different methods to divide assets in a divorce. But what exactly does equitable distribution mean?
Equitable distribution means that the division of assets is done in a fair way. That may mean that all marital assets are divided equally; or, it may mean that assets are not divided equally depending on the facts and circumstances of your case.
Understanding Equitable Distribution in Divorce
When a married couple decides to divorce in New Jersey, their property must be divided as part of the divorce process. In a New Jersey divorce, all assets acquired during the marriage are subject to equitable distribution.
The court looks at many factors to decide what is fair. These include how long the marriage lasted, the age and health of each person, and what each person needs. For example, a court might allow the parent taking care of young children to retain the marital residence or live there for a period of time after the divorce before the sale of the residence. Another example might be allocating debt unequally. If one person spent marital funds on a non-marital purpose and created debts for the family, that person might be responsible for more debt than the other.
Every divorce is different, so the way the court divides assets varies from case to case. In New Jersey, items like houses, cars, and savings accounts are all subject to equitable distribution.
Types of Property Subject to Division in Divorce
In a divorce, courts divide all your assets into two main categories: marital and nonmarital assets. The court typically divides only the marital assets. Nonmarital assets generally stay with the original owner.
Marital assets are everything you and your spouse acquired during your marriage. This includes your home, cars, furniture, and even things like retirement accounts and savings. It doesn’t matter whose name is on the title. If you got it while you were married, it’s usually considered marital property.
Non-marital assets are different. These are things you owned before you got married or gifts and inheritances you received during the marriage. For example, if you had a car or a house before getting married, this usually remains your property after the divorce. The same goes for any inheritance you might have received, even if you acquired it while you were married. These assets need to remain separate during the marriage to stay non-marital. For example, if you inherit money, but put it in a joint account, it may lose its status as “non-marital”.
Frequently, a person may own a property prior to the marriage. During the marriage, they might sell that property and put the proceeds into a joint (or marital) property, or add the spouse to the deed. Once that is done, the pre-marital asset is now comingled and will not be treated as a separate asset in the divorce. These are exactly the types of situations that you would need to discuss with an attorney. If you own property or a business, you may want to consult with a qualified family law attorney about a pre-nuptial agreement to protect these assets.
Factors That Could Affect Asset Division in Your New Jersey Divorce Case
Divorce can be complex, and how your assets are divided depends on various factors. In New Jersey, the court considers:
- The duration of your marriage
- Each spouse’s financial contributions during the marriage
- The age and health of each spouse
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- Each spouse’s income and earning capacity
- Any prenuptial agreements in place
- Whether one spouse stayed home to care for children
- The couple’s debts and liabilities
- Tax consequences of the asset division
- Any waste or dissipation of assets by either spouse
- Future financial needs and opportunities for each spouse
Contact a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer Today
Protecting your assets is essential during a New Jersey divorce, and the best way to achieve a fair and favorable outcome is by working with a trusted divorce attorney. At Baker Legal Group, we offer a confidential consultation to discuss your unique situation and provide the guidance you need. Don’t struggle to handle this process alone. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.