New Jersey is a state that uses equitable distribution to divide property when a couple divorces. Equitable distribution isn’t a 50–50 split of marital property like some may think. It’s a fair division of marital property in a divorce, which may or may not be 50–50.
Usually, only the property acquired during the marriage is subject to division. Assets that you owned before the marriage are typically yours. If you made improvements to your property during the marriage, however, the court might label it as marital property. Another scenario in which pre-marriage assets would become marital property is if your spouse contributed to the increase in their value.
Judges consider the age and health, earning ability and financial situation of both parties at the time of the property division when they determine how to fairly divide the marital property. Other factors that influence decisions include custodial responsibilities for children, debts of each person, how much each person contributed to the other’s education and career and how much each person sacrificed for the other’s education and career. If one spouse was a homemaker or a stay-at-home parent, then a judge may want to provide them with more resources to help them get sufficient job training.
Premarital and postnuptial agreements
New Jersey allows premarital and postnuptial agreements where you and your spouse can come to an agreement on how you will divide the property. Premarital agreements occur before marriage. Ideally, you want to sort out these issues before marriage. However, you could still write a postnuptial agreement after marriage. In order for a premarital or postnuptial agreement to be valid in New Jersey, it must be fair to both parties. Each person also needs independent representation.
New Jersey aims to ensure a fair division of property when a couple divorces. In some situations, the court sees a 50–50 split as fair but not always.