Popular movies and TV shows often depict divorce as a process in which divorcing spouses each receive exactly half of the marital assets. While this might be the case in a handful of states, New Jersey state law follows something called equitable division. Rather than a 50/50 split, the goal of property division is to create a division of marital assets that is most fair to the situation.
Of course, this does not mean that an equitable division cannot look close to something like an even split. However, you might also end up with a split that is something closer to 60/40, or anything in between. You will also need to be ready to discern between marital and separate property.
What is marital property?
Marital property — also referred to as community property — is anything that you and your spouse jointly own together. In general, this is anything that you acquire after getting married. Couples must always divide marital property during divorce. Here are a few common examples of marital property:
- Retirement accounts
- The marital home
The home is often one of the biggest assets that couples have to divide during divorce. How couples divide a home is largely up to them, but there may be factors that influence this decision. If you have children, the parent with primary custody might prefer to keep the house. You will also need to take into account whether you can keep up with the mortgage, utilities and other regular costs associated with homeownership if you are going from two incomes to just one.
What is separate property?
Separate property is anything that you personally own and that does not belong to your spouse. The divorce does not include this property. These assets are often those brought into the marriage, meaning that you owned them before saying “I do.” Some assets acquired after marriage can still be separate though, and often include:
- Court awards
It is possible for separate property to actually switch to marital property. For example, if you receive an inheritance and put it into a personal account that you use for your own purpose, it will likely remain separate property. However, if you deposit those funds into a joint account or use them for marital purposes — such as paying off debt or fixing up the house — then that inheritance might actually be marital property.
So, who gets what?
While the court sometimes decides this, divorcing couples have significant control over property division. It does require a certain commitment to collaboration and negotiation though, which can be difficult during divorce. Knowing where you are willing to compromise and what assets are most important to you can be helpful.
Property division is just one part of the divorce process. You might also need to consider things such as child custody, child support or alimony. Having a more thorough understanding of New Jersey family law and how divorce works can be essential for reaching the best possible divorce settlement.