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What does equitable distribution entail?

New Jersey law requires you and your spouse to divide your marital property equitably between the two of you when you divorce. But what does this mean? It may surprise you to learn that while an equitable distribution can be a precisely 50/50 one, an unequal distribution can be just as equitable depending on your particular situation.

FindLaw explains that no one-size-fits-all definition exists for what constitutes a fair and equitable property distribution. Courts make this determination on a case-by-case basis. This gives you and your spouse a great deal of flexibility when devising a property settlement agreement that treats both of you fairly.

Factors to consider

Keeping in mind that the word “equitable” means fair and impartial, the equitability of your property settlement agreement depends on numerous factors applicable to your specific situation. Some things to consider include the following:

  • What are your and your spouse’s respective ages?
  • What earning capacity does each of you possess?
  • Who will have primary custody of your children?
  • Does either of you have a disease or condition necessitating unusually high medical bills?
  • How much nonfinancial support has each of you contributed to the marriage?
  • Which of you, if either, dissipated marital assets during the marriage to support an alcohol, drug or gambling addiction?

Separate property

Only your and your spouse’s marital property becomes subject to equitable division. Your respective separate property, such as assets you owned before your marriage and gifts and inheritances you received during it, remains yours and yours alone. The amount of separate property each of you owns, nevertheless, becomes yet another factor to consider when equitably dividing your marital property.

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