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New Jersey Equitable Distribution

Equitable Distribution New Jersey

New Jersey Equitable Distribution - man gazing over water from beach

New Jersey Equitable Distribution 

Worried about divorcing, and getting your fair share? About who’s going to get what? A New Jersey Equitable Distribution Lawyer can help 

Equitable is defined by the dictionary as fair. That means the Court tries to achieve an allocation of property based upon criteria and guidelines defined by the laws of the state, but also recognizing that fairness is paramount. We often, unfortunately, associate the process of divorce with fighting – with trying to get all that you can, in a zero-sum manner – whereas the Court approaches divorce with the goal of being even-handed. 

Equitable: fairness. The fair distribution of property that was accrued during the marriage. If you’re getting divorced, how do you know if you’re receiving an equitable amount of your possessions, property, assets, etc.? What do you do if you think you’re giving up too much, or not getting enough? If it’s not equitable? 

Bear in mind, fair does not necessarily mean equal: the Court is under no legal obligation to divide the marital assets fifty-fifty. Fair means, well, just that: fair. And who decides what fair means? The Court— unless you and your spouse can, or your lawyers can propose fair distributions of property and assets. 

A New Jersey Equitable Distribution Lawyer can help. Let’s look at how: 

  • Review, with your New Jersey Equitable Distribution Lawyer, what may fall under assets to be equitably divided by the Court. These may include, but are not limited to, the marital home, furniture, artwork, etc., and other assets accrued during the marriage. 
  • Also review additional assets that may be of a liquid nature: investments, home equity lines of credit, retirement accounts, pension plans, profit sharing plans, deferred compensation plans and/or inheritances. Oftentimes your New Jersey Equitable Distribution Lawyer will work with a licensed certified public accountant and/or forensic account, and/or a wealth manager, as part of your legal and financial team. 
  • Review additional assets that may include items of a more personal nature: collectibles, artwork, books, media, personal possessions, and sentimental artifacts from your time together and/or a child’s growing up. Speak honestly with your lawyer: some of these items may hold value that it is hard for the Court to quantify (or even for you to consider). Some of them you may be tempted to try and take possession of to score some kind of point against you soon-to-be-former-spouse (say, the comic book collection you don’t really care about), and this is not advisable. Be honest with yourself and your lawyer about what you really want. 
  • Debt, of course, will also be distributed equitably by the Court. No one likes to consider this, but be forthright with both you and your lawyer: who accrued the debt, and why? Sometimes, unfortunately, divorcing spouses will discover “hidden” or “secret” debt—debt that one person kept from their spouse. (Sometimes this is because the debt is tied to something for which the person is ashamed, such as gambling, chemical dependence, an illicit affair, etc.) You may read other pages on monetary issues in divorce, such as Alimony and High-asset Wealth Protection), but it may be worth moving half of your savings and/or checking into a different account or giving the credit cards accounts you are aware of a double-check. Of course, your legal and financial team will help you with this— and an accountant may be necessary to discover the secret debt. Either way, discuss with your lawyer what part of the debt you think it would be fair for you to retain. 
  • Discuss with your New Jersey Equitable Distribution Lawyer what you want. Not what’s fair, but what you prioritize, what you put a premium on. Some decisions may be purely financial, others may be of a more sentimental nature. All of divorce is a compromise and knowing what’s most important to you (what to fight for, what to let go of) can help you, the Court, you, and your lawyers. (As we mentioned earlier, resist the temptation to go after something to score a point against your soon-to-be-former spouse.) 
  • Review the numerous factors which the Court must consider in its attempt at equitable distribution. They may include but are not limited to the length of your marriage, the ages of you and your spouse, the contribution by each spouse during the marriage. Additional factors may be physical and mental health issues. Also coming into play is the question of whether both spouses worked equally, as well as parented equally were the day-to-day realities of child-rearing (the packing of school lunches, the endless trips to soccer practice or the pediatrician’s) equally divided or fell harder on one set of shoulders? Numerous other factors may be considered by the Court: what is the education of both parties? The socioeconomic backgrounds, the earning potential, the comparable standard of living lifestyle? As you can see there is no real end to the various factors the Court may consider, and it’s best to have reviewed them all with your New Jersey Equitable Distribution Lawyer. 


What will the Court do to equitable distribute your assets? 

  1. The Court will decide which marital assets are subject to distribution. As we recommended, reviewing assets with your lawyer prior to this is a good idea, in case you and your lawyer disagree with the Court’s position on a particular asset and your lawyer needs to lobby, negotiate, or present your argument to the Court. 
  2. The Court will value the marital assets. This may be simple (a bank account, the market valuation of a car), or complex (hiring an appraiser for a vacation home, or a forensic accountant for a business). Either way, your lawyer will do their best to make sure the Court values all the assets fairly. 
  3. The Court will distribute the valued marital assets equitably, taking into a consideration many factors. 

Rarely does anyone come out of a divorce thinking it was fair. Yet that’s the impossible task imposed upon the Court: to distribute everything fairly, or equitably. 

At O’Cathain Law Group we have a simple motto. Two words that point towards what’s next: Move Forward. And we want to help you Move Forward as fairly as possible. 

Contemplating divorce and wondering how it could possibly be fair? We can help. Call (201) 488-1161, fill out the intake form, or email a dedicated Family Law paralegal to speak with a New Jersey Equitable Distribution Lawyer at O’Cathain Law Group. 

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