Equitable distribution is defined as distributing between you and your spouse all of the assets that you’ve acquired legally and officially during your marriage.
There are three steps in equitable distribution. The first step is to identify all those assets, the second step is to value them, and the third step is to distribute them. It’s the third step that is often the problem.
In New Jersey, there are 16 factors that the courts consider when equitably distributing an asset. They are:
- 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, preservation, depreciation, or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property;
- 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;
- 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.
It is important that you have the advice of a good matrimonial attorney, someone who will take the time to take discovery, find any assets that may have been hidden, value those assets accurately, and then discuss with you how to distribute them.
In New Jersey, not every asset has to be distributed, but every asset is to be distributed equally. You need to have a plan and look at it objectively and without emotion, so you can come to a reasonable compromise. If you can do that, you’re going to save yourself a lot of time and a lot of money.
Do you have questions regarding equitable distribution? If so, contact divorce attorney Sara Sencer McArdle at 973-366-5244.