By: Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq.
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.” Generally, property acquired between the date of marriage and the date of filing of the complaint for divorce is eligible for distribution. Although this timeframe has been subject to criticism because a marriage or civil union may have broken down well before the filing of a complaint for divorce, case law has established that it is appropriate to utilize the date of the filing of the complaint due to the difficulty in pinpointing the precise date that a marriage has irretrievably broken down.
Pursuant to statute, all gifts, inheritances, and intestate distributions received by either spouse from a third party are ineligible for equitable distribution. Additionally, property brought into the marriage by either spouse, and compensation received by a spouse for personal pain, suffering, and disability, are also excluded. However, the burden of establishing immunity from equitable distribution will rest upon the spouse who asserts such immunity, while New Jersey law has favored an expansive interpretation of the word “property” – pensions and retirement plans, real estate, household furnishings, the lost-earning component of a personal injury settlement, an interest in a business or partnership, stock options, frequent flyer miles, lottery winnings, cash surrender value of life insurance policies, and debts are subject to equitable distribution.
As the purpose of equitable distribution is to fairly divide assets acquired by the marital enterprise, how title is held is usually of no significance. It is important to note that marital fault is also a factor which is ordinarily not considered by the Court. In deciding how to appropriately distribute marital property, the Court must determine what property is subject to equitable distribution, determine the value of the property, and then ultimately decide how allocation of the property can equitably be made between the spouses.
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.
Timothy J. Little, P.C. – Attorneys in Woodbridge, New Jersey representing clients throughout Middlesex County (Old Bridge, Woodbridge, Sayreville, East Brunswick, Spotswood, Perth Amboy, Dunellen, Colonia, Sewaren, Iselin, Avenel, Fords, Keasbey, Menlo Park, Port Reading, South Amboy, Monroe, Edison, Carteret, Cranbury, Helmetta, South River, Milltown, Highland Park, Jamesburg, Laurence Harbor), Monmouth County, Union County, Ocean County, Somerset County, and Burlington County.