What You Need to Know About the Division of Assets and Debts During a New Jersey Divorce
You and your spouse owned a home full of stuff, a car, and a Visa card. Now that you are getting divorced, you must decide who gets which piece of marital property. For many couples, this is the most contentious part of divorce. Who gets the house? Who gets the car? Who gets the china from your wedding registry? Who gets the Visa bill? These questions can turn even the most amicable divorce into a hostile tug-of-war.
Property That May be Divided in a NJ Divorce
- Marital home
- Vacation home
- Investment property
- Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs)
- Credit card debt
- Retirement accounts and pension plans
- Supplemental Executive Retirement Plans (SERPs)
- Deferred compensation plans
- Profit sharing plans
- Personal possessions
- Any other property, assets or debts acquired during the marriage
Equitable Distribution in New Jersey
New Jersey is an equitable distribution state. This means that the court must divide any assets, property, and debt accumulated your marriage in a fair manner. However, fair doesn’t always mean that each spouse gets an equal share of the marital property. Courts recognize that marriage is a partnership, and that a homemaker or a stay-at-home parent’s contributions are just as valuable as a wage-earner’s. Equitable distribution in New Jersey is based on a number of factors listed in the state’s legal code. But, these factors don’t include fault. Marital fault is not usually a factor in equitable distribution.
Factors Affecting the Division of Real and Personal Property in a New Jersey Divorce
- How long did the marriage last?
- How old is each spouse?
- Are there any physical or emotional health issues?
- How much income was brought to the marriage by each spouse?
- Did either spouse bring property into the marriage?
- Does either spouse has significant separate property or separate debt?
- What was the standard of living established during the marriage?
- Is there a prenuptial agreement, post-nuptial agreement or other legal contact concerning the division of marital property?
- What are the economic circumstances of each spouse?
- What is the income potential of each spouse?
- What is the educational background of each spouse?
- What kind of training, employment skills, and work experience does each spouse have?
- How long has a spouse been absent from the job market?
- Who has day-to-day responsibility for the children?
- Is there a need to establish trusts for the children’s educational or medical needs?
- How long will it take the spouse with the lower earning potential to obtain the education or training needed to achieve a comparable standard of living?
- How did each spouse contribute to or support the education or earning power of the other spouse?
- Are there potential tax effects related to distribution of assets and debts?
- Are there any other relevant factors?
While the court has the final say in the division of assets and debts, most courts will honor agreements made between spouses during direct negotiation, mediation or arbitration.
“Marital Property” or “Separate Property”?
When dividing assets and debts, it is important to know exactly what is considered “marital” property. Your spouse may be eligible for a portion of your retirement savings or investments even if your name is the only name listed on the account. And, you may be responsible for your spouse’s credit card debt, even if you had no idea the account existed. The law is complicated. Your divorce attorney will help you determine which of your assets are “marital property” and which are “personal property”.
Who Gets the Marital Home?
The home is the most valuable asset owned by many New Jersey couples. So, it is important that you consider how the value of the home will be divided. You will need to decide whether you or your spouse will live in the home during and after the divorce, or if the home will be sold.
Talk to an attorney before you move out of your home. Moving out could have an impact on the custody of your children, your visitation rights and the payment of child support and spousal support. You should also consider the cost of maintaining two homes. You may be responsible for the care and upkeep of the existing marital home until the divorce is final.
Do You Have Hidden Assets?
Under New Jersey law, each spouse must disclose all assets and liabilities during the divorce negotiations. Ideally, each spouse is honest, and all assets and liabilities are evaluated and divided equitably. However, some spouses may hide assets to prevent them from being part of the marital agreement. If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets, please contact our office. Attorney Melinda M. Previtera works to uncover hidden assets and protect spouses’ rights to marital property through lifestyle analysis, expense tracing and forensic accounting.
Is Yours a High Net-Worth Divorce?
If you or your spouse has a high net worth, your divorce is unlikely to be simple. There may be complex financial aspects that need to be addressed including the division of real estate, business assets, stocks, investments, trust funds, and retirement assets. These assets must be evaluated in order to achieve an equitable distribution of property.
A pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement can impact your divorce settlement. However, you may be entitled to some property even if you signed a legal agreement before your marriage. Contact our office to learn about your rights.
New Jersey Divorce Lawyers: Protecting You and Your Future
No matter what your circumstances, attorney Melinda M. Previtera can guide you through New Jersey’s equitable distributions laws. She’ll explain how equitable distribution applies to your case, and let you know about any tax liabilies or advantages. She will help you decide which assets will help you make a fresh start and achieve your future goals. Above all, she will make sure that your interests are protected.
Division of property isn’t just about who gets the house and who gets the china, it’s about protecting your future. Call 856-942-0150 to learn how New Jersey equitable distribution can work for you.