When divorcing spouses in New Jersey are unable to agree on how their marital property and debt will be divided, the court has the authority to issue an equitable division of the items. Equitable distribution means that the property and debt are divided fairly between the estranged spouses. It does not guarantee that the items will be divided equally.
Marital assets and debt include any items that the couple acquired during their marriage. The name on the title or whoever physically made the purchase does not matter. However, any property that the spouses owned individually before they got married is in most cases considered separate property and is not subject to equitable distribution. Gifts and inheritances from third parties generally fall into the separate property category as well.
Several factors are taken into consideration when the court determines how the marital assets and debts are divided. Some of these include whether one spouse will need financial support, has health problems or was at fault in the divorce. The court may also consider the ages of the spouses, the needs of any children involved, and any imbalance of earning power, abilities and career opportunities between the spouses. Some less common considerations might be whether the spouses are expecting inheritances and whether they are wasting community assets. The value of their separate estates and attorney's fees could be factors as well, among other financial aspects.
To avoid the court exercising its authority to divide marital property and debt, divorcing spouses in New Jersey may agree on the division with the help of mediators or negotiations between their attorneys. Forensic accountants, valuation experts and other financial specialists may help their attorneys gain an accurate assessment of the values of their marital property and debt so that they can agree on how to divide it fairly.