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Distribution of Assets in a Divorce

One of the most contentious issues in a divorce is the question of how the marital assets are going to be divided. Laws vary a lot from state to state. New Jersey is what's called an "equitable distribution" state. If the divorcing couple can work out an agreement between themselves, that's fine. If not, the judge will decide how to split up the assets.

If it goes to the judge to figure out, the first thing the judge is going to do is decide what assets go into the calculation. In general, this means any assets that the couple acquired between the date of the marriage and the date the divorce papers were filed go into the calculation.

This means any assets one of the parties owned before the marriage aren't part of the marital assets. There's one caveat, though. Even though one party may have owned an asset before the marriage - say a house, or a valuable painting - any increase in the value of that asset during the course of the marriage would be counted as marital property and would be subject to equitable distribution.

And of course in addition to the value of the assets - which besides bank accounts, pensions, personal property and real estate includes pensions - the value of any additional debt acquired during the marriage also goes into the calculations.

Once the value of the marital property has been determined - and for wealthy people this can be very complicated, expensive, and subject to much argumentation - the question of how to divide those assets can be addressed.

"Equitable" distribution means fair and impartial. It does NOT mean "equal." There are many factors that a judge may consider in determining what constitutes "equitable." Are there any written agreements regarding dividing property in the event of a divorce? How long did the marriage last? What is the financial situation of each party? Are there significant differences in age? Are there health or special considerations? Are there needs of children than should be taken into account? The judge has a great deal of leeway in deciding how to divide the assets.

The distribution of assets in a divorce can be a very complicated issue. If you have any questions about "equitable distribution" or any other aspect of New Jersey divorce law, please contact a New Jersey family law attorney at the Law Offices of Greenberg, Walden & Grossman, LLC.

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