Every divorce has a unique outcome based on the circumstances of the couple’s marriage and whether they cooperate with one another or litigate. Property division decisions can vary drastically even when couples have relatively similar overall marital estates.
The exact outcome of the divorce process depends in no small part on how a judge decides to divide a couple’s property. The New Jersey equitable distribution statute determines how the courts split your property if you rely on a judge to make those decisions for you.
What does the equitable distribution process in a New Jersey divorce entail?
You need to provide a thorough accounting of assets and debt
For a family law judge to reach the right conclusion about how to divide your property in a divorce, they need to have a lot of detailed information about your marriage. You have an obligation to honestly disclose all of your personal property and your debts to both the judge presiding over the case and your spouse. Your spouse will also have to provide a thorough accounting of their property.
In addition to learning about your marital assets and debts, a judge will need to learn about the circumstances of your marital relationship as well. How long you stayed married, the paid and unpaid contribution of each spouse to the family, your earning potential, your separate property and even custody arrangements can all play a role in a judge’s property division decision.
Their goal when dividing your property is to arrive at a solution that is fair given the circumstances of your marriage and your personal situation.
What property can the courts divide?
Any property you have acquired during the marriage and any income you earned will be marital property that the courts can divide. Debts that either of you accrued during the marriage are also marital debts that both of you may need to help pay. Even accounts and assets held in one person may be subject to division in New Jersey divorce proceedings.
The date of acquisition and the nature of the resources used to acquire certain property will determine whether it is marital or separate property. A judge cannot divide separate property. They can also order either spouse to pay marital debts. Additionally, judges sometimes order the sale or liquidation of specific assets in divorce proceedings so that the spouses can share the proceeds from the sale and eliminate financial obligations tied to the asset.
Given how much discretion a judge has yes for property division purposes, it can be nearly impossible to predict the outcome of litigated property division proceedings. Learning more about what to expect during the equitable distribution process can help you better prepare for the future.