In New Jersey, as in the rest of the country, it seems that the vast majority of parents – both mothers and fathers – are in the workforce earning an income. However, approximately 25% of mothers stay at home to take care of their children while their spouse works to earn an income. For men, 7% stay at home with the situation reversed. When the marriages between these spouses breakdown, how does the “stay-at-home” aspect of the parenting and marriage work out in the property division process? As it turns out, not well.
A recent study analyzed this issue, particularly when it comes to stay-at-home mothers. The study found that most experts who analyzed the issue found that a stay-at-home mother may end up with less than half of all marital assets. Why? Well, it appears that the contributions of a stay-at-home mother or, presumably, a stay-at-home father, are harder for a family law court to quantify than it is to look at the hard figures of an income stream coming into the family.
Most states, like New Jersey, have the idea of “equitable distribution” of marital assets codified in their family law codes. “Equitable” does not mean “equal.” And, as it seems that many family law courts probably see a divorce more in terms of dividing financial assets – as well as addressing any issues with children, like support and custody – it’s almost like the courts are looking at divorces as a split of a business, as opposed to a family’s life.
It can be hard to fight for what is “equitable” when it comes to a divorce in New Jersey. However, knowing the factors involved in the process, as well as the perceived biases, may help a divorcing parent get a fair share. Consulting an experienced attorney may be helpful to ensure the property division process goes smoothly.