According to a recent report of U.S. Census data, New Jersey has the lowest remarriage rate in the nation. These statistics indicate that New Jersey residents either stay married or get divorced and never say “I do” again. This phenomenon is consistent with other marriage data about New Jersey, which has one the lowest divorce rates in the nation. Among the reasons Garden State residents may be reticent to remarry are unfortunate monetary outcomes in divorce, where one or both spouses may feel they have gotten the short end of the financial stick.
How do I protect myself financially during and after the divorce?
When New Jersey couples divorce, their property is divided using a system called “equitable distribution,” which requires a fair division of all property acquired during the marriage (marital property). The term under New Jersey law does not necessarily mean equal distribution of all assets and debts, but that is generally the result, whether by negotiation, arbitration, or trial.
Divorcing spouses have a right to protect and retain “separate” property, which refers to property that the spouse owned prior to marriage ar received as gifts during marriage, and did not commingle with marital property. Proving which property is separate from marital property can be difficult and the assistance of an experienced divorce lawyer can be valuable in preserving such assets.
Fair distribution of earned income
Since New Jersey law treats marriage as a partnership, each spouse is viewed as participating in generating earned income, even with one spouse at home taking care of the children and household while the other works outside the home. As a result, courts will divide income between spouses on a fair basis, according to statutes and cases interpreting them. New Jersey just adopted an alimony reform statute that gives the most specific guidance yet to trial judges, which also informs negotiations between the parties outside of court.
Equitable distribution of jointly acquired marital assets and debts
In assessing equitable distribution of marital assets, courts take into account the following factors, among other criteria:
•· The marriage’s duration;
•· The parties’ ages and physical and emotional health;
•· The income or property each party brought to the marriage;
•· The marriage’s established standard of living;
•· The parties’ written agreements before or during the marriage regarding property distribution;
•· The parties’ economic circumstances at the time the division of property;
•· The parties’ income and earning capacity, including educational background, training, skills, experience, absences from the job market, custodial responsibilities, and the time and expense required to become self-supporting at a reasonably comparable standard of living; and
•· The debts and liabilities of the parties.
As this list of factors indicates, distribution of marital assets and debts can be one of the most challenging and contentious aspects of a divorce. Vigilant yet caring legal counsel is critical to a successful outcome.
If you or someone you know may be in need of legal advice or advocacy in a family law matter, please call or write us, or have them do so. We are here to help you. We are committed to your well-being.