Division of Marital Property (Equitable Distribution)
Equitable distribution is the phrase the court uses when it divides property rights and obligations between spouses during a divorce. The goal of equitable distribution is to allocate assets and liabilities obtained during the course of the marriage to both parties, whether or not that property is titled in one or both of the parties’ names.
Equitable Distribution Factors N.J.S.A 2A:34-23.1.
In making an equitable distribution of property, the court shall consider, but not be limited to, the following factors:
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age and physical and emotional health of the parties;
- The income or property brought to the marriage by each party;
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- Any written agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage 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;
- 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, 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 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 or children;
- The extent to which a party deferred achieving their career goals; and
- Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.
The theory of equitable distribution is that marriage is a partnership whose assets should be fairly and equitably distributed when the partnership breaks up. Pascale v. Pascale, 140 N.J. 583 (1995). Equitable distribution does not necessarily mean equal distribution.
Equitable distribution does not include any assets acquired by either party by way of gift (except that a gift from one spouse to the other during the marriage is subject to equitable distribution), devise or intestate succession, or any assets acquired prior to the marriage.
In effectuating an equitable distribution of the marital assets, the court must follow a three-step approach: (1) determine what specific property is eligible for distribution, (2) value the property for purposes of distribution, and (3) decide how such distribution can most equitably be made. Rothman v. Rothman, 65 N.J. 219 (1974).
Given the complexities involved with Equitable Distribution, we advise you to contact one of our experienced family law attorneys at 908-735-5161 at Gebhardt & Kiefer today. We handle Equitable Distribution and family law issues throughout New Jersey.