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How is property divided in New Jersey?

Many couples do not think about what constitutes community and separate property until going through a divorce, but it may be important to consider what possessions and assets one is bringing into a marriage. When a couple in New Jersey divorces, each spouse keeps separate property and will usually be awarded a fair share of marital assets.

Items acquired before a marriage, inheritances and gifts are usually considered separate property and are usually not subject to division when a marriage is dissolved. However, separate assets can become marital property when commingled. This means separate funds and possessions should be kept apart from marital property and not used for the benefit of both parties.

New Jersey courts follow the principles of equitable distribution, and many factors are considered when a couple divorces including the length of the marriage, the contribution each spouse made to the marriage, the standard of living the couple is used to and the age and physical and emotional health of each party. A court will also look at each partner's income and economic conditions. A spouse who earns more may receive more of the marital assets, but the other spouse should be given a reasonable amount based on his or her circumstances and expected standard of living.

Distribution of property can be difficult, and spouses who are not the breadwinners for a family may have concerns. While only one spouse might work, the other spouse's contributions are still considered. This means one partner's efforts would be recognized if he or she raised children or helped with a partner's education or business. In addition to the share of marital property a spouse receives, child support or alimony may also be awarded depending on the circumstances. An attorney may be helpful to someone navigating the process.

Source: Findlaw, "New Jersey Marital Property Laws", November 26, 2014

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