Equitable Distribution

What’s in, what’s out, and how do you divide it all?

DRIVING TOWARD FAIRNESS
In New Jersey divorce cases, all marital assets – regardless of title – are distributed in an equitable manner between the parties involved.

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Does “equitably” mean “equally?”

No, equitably does not necessarily mean 50/50. Equitable distribution means that all marital assets, or marital property, will be divided fairly and equitably. The final distribution of all marital assets will be determined through direct negotiation between you and your spouse, your attorneys, or determined by a judge. If you wish to keep a specific marital asset, this will have to be brought up in negotiation.

Factors that are involved in the division of marital assets can include the duration of the marriage, the income of both parties, the ages of the parties, the standard of living during the length of the marriage, and the economic circumstances of each party, along with others.

You also have the option to engage in alternative methods of dispute resolution with your spouse to divide your marital assets equitably through divorce mediation support or collaborative practice.

What is meant by “marital assets?”

All property acquired during a marriage, either individually or jointly, is considered to be the marital assets. During a divorce, the court can order that all marital assets be equitably split between the spouses. This can include the marital home, stocks, bank accounts, investment property, retirement savings, and pensions. Marital debts will be treated similarly to marital assets and be divided equitably between both parties.

Premarital assets are technically protected by New Jersey law, however when premarital assets are mixed with marital assets, in the cases of joint bank accounts or the selling of stocks to purchase a home, the line between marital and premarital assets can become blurred.

In regards to the marital home, it is not considered to be a marital asset if it was owned by one spouses prior to the marriage, unless a spouses’ name was added to it at a later date. Any gifts that are acquired by a single spouse during a marriage, including any inheritance, is also not considered to be a marital asset and can be protected during a divorce. However, any personal wealth accumulated by one of the parties over the course of the marriage could come into play during the calculation of alimony and child support payments.

A prenuptial agreement signed prior to marriage can greatly simplify equitable distribution by stating exactly what is to be considered marital property and what is not.

How are businesses equitably distributed?

The Equitable Distribution of a business owned by either spouse can be very complicated. If a business is owned by one of the parties pre-marriage, but increases in value over the course of the marriage, that appreciation may be considered to be a marital asset. This can depend on the involvement of the other spouse in the business post-marriage. If there was no contribution from one of the spouses, it may be considered to be personal property. If both spouses put effort into the business post-marriage, then it can be considered a marital asset and the marital portion will be valued and divided equitably.

Equitable distribution issues can be extraordinarily complex. If you have any questions about equitable distribution, or any other areas of divorce and family law, please feel free to call us for a legal consult. We will provide you with individualized legal counsel with one of our family lawyers. Ideally, you may find a reasonable way to resolve your equitable distribution issues privately through negotiation, mediation, or the Collaborative Law process. A collaboratively trained attorney can help you work together through collaborative practice to divide your marital assets in a way that will be acceptable to both parties.

Keith Family Law Group is a full service family law practice in Westfield, New Jersey that serves clients from Union County, Essex County, Hudson County, Morris County, Hunterdon County, Somerset County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, and Warren County.

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