Primary Steps of Equitable Distribution During a Divorce

Among the most important elements of any divorce is property division, which determines how assets and property are divided among both spouses following the divorce. There were just under 790,000 divorces in 2017 alone, many of which dealt with property division during the proceedings. If you’re considering filing for a divorce in the near future, our New Jersey divorce lawyers can help you better understand how to do so. 

Identifying Marital Property

In the state of New Jersey, property division during a divorce is determined based on equitable distribution, which focuses on a fair distribution of the property as opposed to a strictly equal distribution of property. There are many factors that can dictate how equitable distribution is determined, which includes everything from the overall length of the marriage to the economic circumstances of each spouse. The first phase of equitable distribution involves identifying marital property. Keep in mind that every phase of property division can be decided between each spouse, via a mediator or by a judge. 

When attempting to identify marital property, it’s important to understand that this includes all assets and debts that were accumulated throughout the marriage. However, this does not include property that was received as an inheritance or was initially acquired before the marriage began. If a separate property from before the marriage receives a title change during the marriage, the property will then be considered to be marital property, which means that it will need to be divided during the divorce. There are a variety of issues that can occur when attempting to determine what is and isn’t marital property, which is something that our divorce lawyers will be able to clear up for you whenever necessary. 

Determining Value of Marital Property

Once the marital property has been identified, it will be time to determine the value of this property. In most cases, the value of property refers to the current free market value of the piece of property. The value of larger assets like a business or home may need to be determined by business appraisers or real estate professionals before you can have a clear idea of how much an asset is worth. Among the more difficult types of marital property to assign a value to is a retirement pension, which is something that typically requires the assistance of a professional actuary or forensic accountant. 

Distributing Marital Property

After the property has been identified and a value has been placed on it, it will be time to distribute any of the marital property between the spouses. There are many times when a home is sold, and the profits divided, before the divorce has been officially finalized. While this occurs on a regular basis, a spouse will need to ask permission from the court overseeing the divorce if the other spouse is disagreeing with the need to sell the home. It’s also possible for a divorcing couple to make a decision on which spouse is able to live in the home before the property is sold at a later date. This is typically used when the divorcing couple has children who need to be raised.

Even though marital property is divided and distributed based on equitable distribution in a manner that’s fair, any debts that were incurred during the marriage will usually be divided equally between each spouse. There are several instances in which debts are assigned completely to one spouse, which include situations where:

  • One spouse is entirely responsible for the debt
  • One spouse has the means to pay the entire debt
  • One spouse will receive the whole benefit of the debt

All of the matters pertaining to the distribution of marital property can be handled by an experienced family law attorney such as ours at Morgenstern & Rochester.

If you have any questions about how your property is going to be divided in your divorce, call our Cherry Hill divorce lawyers at (856) 489-6200 so that we can answer any question you might have.