New Jersey is an equitable distribution state. This means assets and debts will be divided between the divorcing spouses in a way that is fair and equitable. All assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered part of the marital pot, and therefore susceptible to distribution between the spouses.
Many kinds of assets are distributable, such as:
- Personal property
- Real property such as your house. The spouses can sell the house, or one spouse can buy the other spouse’s interest in the house.
- 401 (K), IRA, stocks and bonds
- One spouse can buy the other’s spouse’s interest in the business. An expert, a forensic accountant, should be hired to give an opinion about the value of the business. The share of the business owner spouse is ascertained by the expert and the share of the other spouse is usually negotiated.
- Vested or unvested stock options. Sometimes stock options or shares to be received in the future are deemed part of the employment package and eligible to be considered for alimony purposes.
N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.1 governs New Jersey’s equitable distribution factors. That statute provides that in deciding the issue, the court considers:
- 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.
- Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.
Equitable distribution is not always a 50/50 proposition. It is common, but it is not mandated. You should consult with an attorney to discuss your assets and debts, and to understand how they might be treated in your divorce.