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What is Equitable Distribution
When the Courts speak of equitable distribution, the Courts are speaking about the distribution of all assets and debt that accumulated during the marriage. If the parties cannot agree on how to distribute all of the assets and debt that accumulated during the marriage, the Court will decide these issues at a trial. The Court is obligated to consider the law which governs equitable distribution of property. That law directs the judges to consider certain factors. There are approximately 15 factors which the Court must consider, as well as any other factors relevant to each particular case. The factors include but are not limited to such factors as the duration of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, the income or property brought to the marriage by each party, the standard of living established during the marriage, any written agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage, the income and earning capacity of each party, the tax consequences of the proposed distribution to each party, etc.
As you can see, there is no law in New Jersey that states that the assets are to be divided evenly, that is 50 percent to each party. To the contrary, the court is to consider several factors and make a decision based on what would be equitable or fair under the circumstances under each particular case.
Likewise, there is no law in New Jersey that states that the parties’ debts must be divided evenly. It is important to look at the same factors listed in the statute, but different factors may have more of an impact when looking at debts as opposed to assets. Commonly, if one party receives a certain asset, for example a car, they will also be responsible for any debt attached to that asset, i.e. the car loan.
Since no two cases are alike, it is necessary to know about the case and to compare the facts in each case to the factors listed in the statute.