Property acquired during marriage is referred to as marital property. In contrast, property acquired before marriage, including gifts and inheritances, is called separate property. Marital property is not necessarily a topic of conversation among couples unless they decide to separate or get divorced. Today, we will review New Jersey’s marital property laws to shed light on one of the most frequently asked questions about divorce: Who gets what after a divorce?
New Jersey Marital Property Basics
New Jersey does not recognize community property, which is where all property owned by a couple is considered jointly owned and therefore subject to an even distribution. Instead, New Jersey follows an equitable distribution system, which means that in the event of a divorce, any property that was acquired during marriage will be divided equitably. This does not necessarily equal a 50-50 split. To accomplish this, marital property will be distributed either by a voluntary agreement between the couple or established by an order of the divorce court.
How New Jersey Courts Determine Equitable Distribution
New Jersey courts have developed a three-step process to distribute assets. This process is as follows:
- Determine which property is considered marital property
- Calculate the value of the marital property
- Figure out an equitable division of said property
Marital assets may vary, but might include the marital home, a business, a vacation home, bank accounts, automobiles, stock options, retirement accounts, and/or pensions. When the court calculates the value of marital property, other professionals, including an appraiser or accountant, may be retained to help value a business or analyze finances.
Factors that Determine Equitable Distribution of Property
Step three of determining equitable distribution is to figure out the best way to distribute assets. The following factors are taken into consideration to accomplish this:
- Duration of the marriage
- Each spouse’s income and earning capacity
- Each spouse’s age and physical and emotional health
- Accustomed standard of living
- Contributions by each spouse to the education or earning power of the other
- Debts and liabilities
- Each spouse’s contribution to marital property (income and property)
- Prenuptial agreements or other written agreements made before or during the marriage regarding property distribution
- The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property becomes effective
- The need of a parent who has physical custody of a child to occupy the marital residence
- Any other relevant factors the court deems necessary
Some important factors to keep in mind about equitable distribution include understanding how marital home purchases are viewed under the law. Under New Jersey law, if the title of a home lists the husband’s name, this does not necessarily mean the husband will be given the house after a divorce. If the home was purchased while the couple was married, it is still considered martial property, and thus, subject to equitable distribution. Additionally, fault is not a factor in determining property distribution at the time of a divorce.
Consult with a Reputable Lawyer from Our Firm
The process of marital distribution may be straightforward or complicated for you and your spouse depending on your situation. To avoid complications, it would be advisable to speak with a seasoned lawyer about your marital property and assets to learn more about how to best protect your rights and interests.
As Lane & Lane, LLC, our Somerset County divorce lawyers are committed to helping couples resolve their marital issues in a professional and fair manner. We consistently strive to reach a firm but fair outcome to your case. With over 60 years of combined experience, we are here to help ensure you are prepared for the next chapter in your life – wherever that may take you. If you have any questions about marital property law as it relates to your divorce, get in touch with our law firm today.
To learn more about our divorce services, contact us online or call our office at (908) 259-6673.