Equitable distribution means a fair division of the assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage. The court has the discretion to divide the assets in any manner that it determines is fair — although not necessarily equal — based on the following criteria:
- 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 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, dissipation, preservation, depreciation or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property, and the contribution of a party as a homemaker;
- the tax consequences of the proposed distribution to each party;
- the present value of the marital property;
- the need of a parent who has physical custody of a child to own or occupy the marital residence and to use or own the household effects;
- 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;
- any other factors the court may deem relevant.
Depending on your goals, you and your attorney may seek to convince the court that these factors dictate that you receive the highest possible percentage distribution of assets.
David Wildstein, Esq. has been practicing matrimonial law for more than 30 years. He heads the 12-member family-law department of Wilentz Goldman Spitzer P.A. in Woodbridge, NJ and New York City. He has been listed in Best Lawyers in America.