You’ve filed for divorce in New Jersey. Now what? Will your ex get everything? Not necessarily. In the Garden State, both assets and debts are evenly split.
An Equitable Distribution State
As an equitable distribution state, NJ divorce laws require marital property to be divided in a fair and equitable way between both spouses. Naturally, the courts determine what fair means and will base their decision on a number of factors. These factors give the courts a better idea of how each spouse contributed to the marriage, and what each will need in order to move forward with their lives.
The division may be “fair,” but it’s not always equal.
It’s important to note that courts will only get involved in the distribution of marital property if both spouses cannot come to an agreement on their own.
If you and your ex can be civil and cooperative, you can create your own arrangement. Courts typically accept a written property settlement that details who gets to keep what from the marriage.
Dividing Marital Property in NJ
In order to divide the property properly, the courts must know which property is considered marital, and which property is considered separate.
- Marital property is property that is acquired during the marriage. Courts assume that virtually any property gained during the marriage counts as marital property, and that includes gifts from your spouse (aside from the engagement ring).
- Separate property is any property that was owned before the marriage or obtained after the divorce. Some property may also be considered separate even if it was obtained during the marriage, such as an inheritance or gifts from other people.
There are exceptions with separate property under which the spouse would be entitled to some of its value, so be sure to discuss this with your divorce lawyer in New Jersey.
Factors Courts Consider When Dividing Property
The court will consider a multitude of factors when dividing marital property. These factors include:
- Property settlement agreements
- The length of the marriage
- The standard of living during the marriage
- The health and ages of each spouse
- The property each spouse brought into the marriage
- Whether one spouse contributed to the earning power or education of the other spouse
- Each spouse’s economic circumstances
- Each spouse’s income and earning potential
- The value of the property
- Tax consequences
- Debts and liabilities
- Any other relevant factors
One thing courts won’t consider: whether one spouse contributed to the downfall of the marriage. The only exception is if one spouse attempted to kill the other spouse or cause their death.
The courts will also determine whether alimony should be granted, and how much support will be required. New Jersey is one of the only states to still have permanent alimony laws in place, which means one spouse may be responsible for providing spousal support until the ex dies.
Typically, permanent alimony is awarded in cases where the couple was married for a long time and one spouse was financially dependent on the other. Only in extenuating circumstances will permanent alimony be awarded in a shorter marriage.