What Equitable Distribution Means

New Jersey is an equitable distribution state that requires a fair, but not necessarily equal, division of all marital property in a divorce. Before any distribution is made, the marital estate must be identified. Marital property is defined as anything that is acquired during the marriage, in either party’s name, individually, or in joint names. In addition, any assets acquired prior to the marriage that have increased in value through the efforts of either party, become part of the marital estate. There are exceptions to this rule including but not limited to those identified by State statute and those identified in a pre-nuptial agreement wherein the parties agree to specifically exclude and/or include certain assets in the marital estate. Once identified and valued, the marital assets are equitably divided between the parties.
The following factors are taken into account in determining an equitable division of the marital property in a divorce:
a. The duration of the marriage;
b. The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
c. The income or property brought to the marriage by each party;
d. The standard of living during the marriage;
e. Any written agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning an arrangement of property division;
f. The economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property becomes effective;
g. 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;
h. The contribution by each party to the education, training or earning power of the other;
i. The contribution of each party to the acquisition, dissipation, preservation, depreciation or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property, as well as the contribution of a party as a homemaker;
j. The tax consequences of the proposed distribution to each party;
k. The present value of the property;
l. 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;
m. The debts and liabilities of the parties;
n. 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.
o. The extent to which a party deferred achieving their career goals; and
p. Any other factor which the court may deem relevant.

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