By: Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq.
Upon the filing of a Complaint for divorce in New Jersey, the Court acquires jurisdiction to take all reasonable and just steps in equitably distributing marital property – whether real or personal, tangible or intangible, titled or possessed individually or jointly. Under New Jersey law, the Court has the authority to distribute all eligible property that was legally and beneficially acquired during the marriage or civil union as part of equitable distribution. In determining equitable distribution of marital assets, New Jersey case law requires that the Court engage in a three-step process: (1) the Court must decide what specific assets of each spouse are eligible for distribution, (2) must determine the value of the assets for purposes of distribution, and (3) must decide how allocation can most equitably be made.
Decisions regarding equitable distribution of assets in New Jersey divorce actions are always subject to the Court’s discretion upon an analysis of the circumstances of each particular case. In exercising its discretion, New Jersey statute requires that the Court consider, but not be limited to, the following factors in equitably distributing property upon divorce in New Jersey:
- The duration of the marriage or civil union;
- The age and physical and emotional health of the parties;
- The income or property brought to the marriage or civil union by each party;
- The standard of living established during the marriage or civil union;
- Any written agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage or civil union concerning an arrangement of property distribution;
- The economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property becomes effective;
- The income and earning capacity of each party, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage or civil union;
- The contribution by each party to the education, training or earning power of the other;
- The contribution of each party to the acquisition, dissipation, preservation, depreciation or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property, or the property acquired during the civil union as well as the contribution of a party as a homemaker;
- The tax consequences of the proposed distribution to each party;
- The present value of the property;
- The need of a parent who has physical custody of a child to own or occupy the marital residence or residence shared by the partners in a civil union couple and to use or own the household effects;
- The debts and liabilities of the parties;
- The need for creation, now or in the future, of a trust fund to secure reasonably foreseeable medical or educational costs for a spouse, partner in a civil union couple or children;
- The extent to which a party deferred achieving their career goals; and
- Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.
Pursuant to the same statute, in every case involving an award of equitable distribution, the Court is required to make specific factual determinations on the evidence presented regarding the eligibility of assets, valuation of assets, and the above factors for equitable distribution. Furthermore, the statute creates a rebuttable presumption that each party to the divorce has made a substantial financial or non-financial contribution to the acquisition of income and property during the marriage.
If you have any questions in regards to divorce in New Jersey, equitable distribution, or family law, you may wish to consult with an experienced family law attorney. This article is for information purposes only, and is neither legal advice nor the creation of an attorney client relationship.
Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq. – Timothy J. Little, P.C. – All rights Reserved
517 Amboy Avenue, Woodbridge, New Jersey 07095