How Equitable Distribution of Marital Property Affects You

How Equitable Distribution of Marital Property Affects You

Morris County Divorce Attorney

The court considers many factors when coming to a decision about how a couple will divide debts and assets in a divorce. These include the length of time a marriage lasted and the standard of living, the potential of each party to reenter the job market, the current value of marital property and the effect of taxes on that property, and whether or not any party deferred career goals during the course of the marriage. Before you start divorce proceedings, you should know what assets will be subject to division, and how they might be divided. An experienced Morris County divorce attorney can help you to seek – and protect – the property to which you’re entitled.

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Marital property is anything acquired by either party during the term of the marriage – from the date of the marriage to the date the plaintiff filed for divorce. Anything acquired after the plaintiff filed the complaint does not count as marital property. New Jersey law requires equitable distribution of marital property – including assets as well as debts.

How Marital Property is Divided

How Marital Property is DividedEquitable distribution considers 16 separate factors to determine the division of debts and assets. These factors include the cost and “backstory” of items. For example, if a relative gave one partner an heirloom item or anything of individual sentimental value, that wouldn’t be considered divisible “marital property.” Interspousal gifts – something one spouse bought for another – would be considered marital property.

Division is relatively straightforward: if a watch costs $10 and one spouse keeps the watch, he or she owes the other partner $5. Items associated with one partner’s hobbies will usually go with that partner – but they may have to pay “value” to the other spouse. The court will consider the 16 factors to decide who gets which contested items. Judges may sell hotly contested items, and divide the profits between plaintiff and defendant.

It’s important to think about what you value – and what you might fight for – before you get to the trial, or even the settlement stage of a divorce. Start by making a comprehensive inventory with two columns, one for each spouse. Try to be reasonable about what items will go in each column.

Large possessions, like cars, will be “equalized.” That means that if one partner owns a 2016 Aston Martin Vanquish and another partner owns a 1999 Mazda 626, the values of both cars will be added together and divided by two – each partner might keep his or her own car, but both are entitled to half of the value of both cars combined.


  • Marital property is subject to division by the principle of equitable distribution.
  • Equitable distribution means that the property is to be divided in a manner that is far, and not equally.

The House

The HouseIf spouses share a house or other real estate property, one of three things could happen. Either partner could buy out the other’s share and retain ownership of the property while the other moves, or both parties can sell the house and split the profit.

At this point it’s important to consider children, if you have them, and to think about their stability and best interests. Who gets custody? Where will the children go to school? What do they feel about the house? If the house is hotly contested or it seems no resolution is likely, consider how to maximize financial return for both parties.


  • One of the spouses could buy out the other, in which case only one will retain ownership.
  • Conversely, both spouses could choose to take the matter to a judge, who will sell the house.

Retirement Assets

Retirement AssetsYou are entitled to any asset acquired during the term of the marriage, including retirement assets like 401(k)s and 403(b)s. However, if your spouse possesses retirement assets earned before the marriage, these are not subject to distribution – which can get complicated, especially for civil servants, teachers, etc. Furthermore, if a spouse accesses any retirement asset and uses it “for” the marriage, that asset could become subject to marital equitable distribution.


  • You are entitled to your spouse’s retirement assets, provided they were earned during the course of the marriage.
  • Like other assets, retirement assets are also subject to equitable distribution.


InheritanceThe short answer is: No. In general, inheritance is not subject to distribution – although any money that an inheritance earns will be distributed. For example, inherited stocks would not be distributed, but their dividends would. An inherited building would not be distributed, but any rental profits would. These contributions to income also factor into decisions about alimony and child support. As with retirement assets, if one spouse uses any part of an inheritance “for” the marriage, that could change the status of that asset, making it subject to distribution.


  • Inheritance is generally not subject to equitable distribution.
  • However, any money that an inheritance earns is subject to being distributed equitably.

 If you or a loved one is going through this very contentious phase of divorce, please give Morris County divorce attorney, Christopher Leon Garibian a call so he can ensure the most favorable outcome for you.

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Christopher Leon Garibian, Esq. is a partner in the matrimonial and family law department of Weiner Law Group LLP. He has over 19 years of experience handling a multitude of Divorce and Family Law Matters throughout New Jersey. He is passionate about family law and takes pride in his ability to effectuate real change in the lives of his clients. He is certified by the State Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Attorney. If you are in need of an experienced Divorce Attorney or Family Law Attorney in NJ, contact us today for compassionate, long lasting legal solutions.

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