When a marriage is dissolved, a variety of issues that must be resolved. Many couples find the division of shared assets to be one of most challenging. If you are considering divorce or have already started the process, you are probably wondering who will get the house, the business, and the rest of the property you acquired while you were married.
We are here to clarify the issue of marital property, how it is divided in New Jersey, and what you can do to protect your financial future during a divorce.
What is Marital Property?
Before we explain how marital assets are split when a couple divorces in New Jersey, we should define marital property. The courts classify property in two ways during divorce:
- Marital property: all property earned or acquired at any point during the marriage
- Separate property: all property owned by each spouse prior to the marriage or after the divorce is final, and any inheritances and gifts received by either spouse
Examples of Marital and Separate Property
Here are a few common examples of marital property:
- Homes, vehicles, and household furnishings
- Antiques, art, and jewelry purchased during the marriage
- Investments, stocks, and bonds
- Family businesses or partnerships
- Income earned by either spouse during the marriage
Some examples of separate property that are not subject to distribution include:
- Gifts or inheritances only given to one spouse
- Property owned before the couple got married
- Property acquired after the divorce is final
As you can see, there is plenty of room for debate when it comes to the distribution of marital property. Some couples can successfully to resolve this out of court. Through negotiation and mediation, each spouse and their respective divorce lawyers work together to arrive at an arrangement that works for everyone.
If they cannot come to an agreement, they must go to court. The courts in New Jersey split marital property according to a legal theory called “equitable distribution.”
Is Equitable Distribution 50/50?
At first glance, equitable may suggest “equal.” But that is not necessarily the case. The actual definition of equitable is “fair and impartial, characterized by equity or fairness, dealing fairly with all concerned.” In the context of the distribution of assets, it means dividing assets in a way that considers the rights and contributions of both parties in the divorce.
Factors That Play a Role in Equitable Distribution
As explained above, when it is time to settle the distribution of marital property, the courts step back and look at the entirety of the marriage. As with any relationship, people contribute to a marriage and a family unit in many ways.
One spouse may work and bring in income to pay for necessities and “extras” that make life enjoyable, while the other spouse stays home and cares for young children (saving money on daycare in the process.) It is unlikely the courts will penalize the stay-at-home-parent for not working outside the home, especially if the couple both agreed that arrangement was best for the family.
Here are some of the factors a judge will consider for the equitable distribution of marital property:
- The duration of the marriage
- The spouses’ age and health
- The spouses’ employment and earning capacity
- The spouses’ standard of living
- Child custody arrangements
- The tax implications of specific distributions
- How each spouse contributed to the increase or decrease of marital property
- Future estimated costs of education or healthcare for a spouse or child
- Contributions one spouse makes for the other’s education, career, or earning power
- The spouses’ debts and liabilities
For the most part in New Jersey, any type of fault or taking steps to end the marriage does not have any bearing on how property is distributed.
Am I Responsible for My Ex’s Debts?
Generally, debts (monies you owe) and liabilities (your financial obligations) acquired during the marriage are divided up between both parties – even if your ex signed the paperwork on that credit card. If you took out a loan before you got married, that is your responsibility, and yours alone—unless you added your spouse as a joint account holder during the marriage.
Can We Divide Our Assets Without Going to Court?
Absolutely. Many people think a divorce lawyer’s job is to fight for their client in court. Court representation is one important aspect of an attorney’s job, but their primary objective is to protect your rights and achieve a good outcome for your legal matter under the law. If your goal is to resolve your divorce through negotiation, the right attorney will do all they can to facilitate that.
Marital property is divided according to equitable distribution, but that can look very different from couple to couple. For a clearer picture of how the process is likely to transpire in your own situation, schedule a consultation with an experienced Hunterdon County divorce lawyer familiar with high asset divorces.
Hunterdon County Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C., Protect Their Clients Interests at Every Stage of Divorce
In a high net-worth divorce with so much to lose, there is no room for error. The experienced Hunterdon County high asset divorce lawyers at Tune Law Group, LLC, are here to help. We fight for your interests in mediation, arbitration, or in court. To learn more about our services or our track record of success, call us at 908-434-1061 or contact the firm online. From our office in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, we serve clients in Tewksbury, Hunterdon County, Monmouth County, Morris County, and Warren County.