Asset Division (Equitable Distribution)
When a couple gets divorced in New Jersey, all of the assets that were acquired during the marriage get divided “equitably” (asset division). Equitable does not necessarily mean equal, it means fairly. However, the majority of the time, the assets are split equally.
What are the assets? Simply stated, they can be anything that was acquired during the marriage, including but not limited to, the marital residence, investment properties and other real estate, bank accounts of any type, brokerage accounts, including stocks and bonds, retirement benefits (including monthly payouts upon retirement) 401K’s IRA’s etc., and other benefits, all furniture, furnishings, and appliances, automobiles, recreational vehicles, jewelry, musical instruments, computers and electronic devices, paintings and other collectibles and any other assets that were acquired by either party during the marriage. As with anything in the law, there are exceptions. Items that are acquired prior to the marriage, and gifts that either spouse may receive from third parties, or by inheritance are excluded. However, these may not be excluded if the are commingled with marital assets. (By way of brief example, say the husband inherits a sum of money and deposits that money into the parties’ joint bank account, those monies might be considered a gift made by the husband to the marriage, and hence be subject to equitable distribution)
Although marital property is typically divided equally, New Jersey does have a statute in place which the Court will use if the matter is litigated, which includes several factors to determine the fair distribution (asset division) of marital property. These include, amongst other things, the length of the marriage, the health and ages of the parties, the standard of living the parties had, the relative contributions by each party to acquiring the assets to be distributed, the liabilities and the debts of the parties and the general economic circumstances of each party.