What is equitable distribution?
What equitable distribution means is we are not a community property state. In a community property state, everything that is acquired during the marriage is split 50/50. New Jersey is similar; it’s called equitable. So, anything that is acquired during the marriage, in your name, in your partner’s name, and joint names, anything that is acquired including increase in value of assets that were acquired prior to the marriage, are basically put in the marital pot, becomes a marital estate.
After assets are identified and valued, they are distributed equitably. And basically what that means is it’s what’s fair. A lot of the time in a long-term marriage, the division is 50/50. But there are arguments that can be made. It’s not in stone 50/50. In fact, when there’s a business involved and the spouse does not work in the business, the law is mostly like, okay, that spouse will get 30% of the value of the business. So, there are statutory factors that determine what’s fair: the length of the marriage, the age of the parties, the ultimate tax distribution, the ability of each party to make their own money. There are a lot of considerations. But first thing that’s done is that all the assets are identified as marital and valued, and then distributed equitably.
Judith S. Charny has been practicing law in South Jersey since 1984 and established her own practice in 1999. Ms. Charny concentrates in divorce and family law, including collaborative law and divorce mediation.