Divorce can lead to making difficult decisions that affect each spouse’s future financial well-being. In New Jersey, the rule for dividing marital assets is equitable distribution. Assets are to be divided fairly under the laws governing their distribution. This does not mean that assets are divided equally, though. If your spouse and you have decided to pursue a divorce, and you need help understanding and working out an equitable distribution of your assets, Bergen County property division lawyer Howard B. Leopold can assist you. Leopold Law offers advice and representation to residents of communities throughout Northern New Jersey who are seeking a family law attorney. We are here to listen to the details of the circumstances in which you find yourself and develop a plan to help you.Understanding Property Division Rules in New Jersey
New Jersey, like most states, is an equitable distribution state, rather than a community property state. It treats marital property and separate property differently. Marital property includes most property acquired by a couple during the marriage and income derived during the marriage. Marital property is subject to division. If a spouse has title to an asset, this does not necessarily mean that it is that spouse’s separate property.
Separate property includes property owned prior to the marriage or property acquired during the marriage by gift or inheritance. Separate property is not subject to division. New Jersey courts can award a spouse from 0% to 100% of each marital asset, as long as the overall distribution is fair, and they can also equitably divide marital debts.
This can be more complicated in practice than the concepts suggest. A property division attorney can help Bergen County residents and others understand how the rules apply to their specific situation. It is important to be aware that separate property may change its character in whole or in part. For example, if a husband takes over the management of a house that was owned by the wife prior to their marriage, and the couple invests marital funds in its improvement or maintenance, the house can become marital property. Alternatively, the increased value of the house or any rental income from it may be deemed marital property.
Also, separate property can be taken into account in an equitable distribution, even though it cannot itself be divided. Thus, for example, if the husband has separate property worth millions of dollars, the court could exercise its discretion to award a greater share of the marital assets to the wife.
The value of the marital assets is determined by using methods such as independent appraisals of real estate, like the family home, and personal property, including cars. Financial assets such as pensions, which are not available until a point in time in the future, can be assessed based on their present value.
Marital property is generally not divided based on which spouse was more “at fault” for the divorce. Instead, it is divided based on a list of statutory criteria provided by New Jersey law, and the court can consider other factors that it deems relevant. Making the process complicated for some divorcing couples is the fact that the court will not independently investigate the existence of marital assets. Each spouse must make accurate disclosures, but unfortunately divorcing spouses are sometimes tempted to hide their assets. Your attorney can assist you with locating any assets that appear to have been concealed by your spouse.Hire an Experienced Property Division Lawyer in Bergen County or Beyond
Whether your spouse and you are working out financial arrangements amicably or not, it is important that you understand the laws on property division that affect your financial well-being in the short and long terms. Divorce attorney Howard B. Leopold can help ensure that your rights are protected, no matter the complexity of your situation. If you have questions about property division during a divorce, call us at (201) 345-5907 for a free consultation or use our online form to schedule an appointment with a Bergen County property division attorney. Leopold Law can guide people throughout Bergen, Essex, Passaic, and Hudson Counties, including in Hackensack, Englewood, Bergenfield, Cliffside Park, Dumont, Edgewater, Elmwood Park, Fair Lawn, Fairview, Fort Lee, Franklin Lakes, Garfield, Glen Rock, Hasbrouck Heights, Hillsdale, Little Ferry, Lodi, Lyndhurst, Mahwah, New Milford, North Arlington, Oakland, Palisades Park, Paramus, Ramsey, Ridgefield, Ridgefield Park, Ridgewood, River Edge, Rutherford, Saddle Brook, Teaneck, Tenafly, Wallington, Westwood, Wyckoff, Jersey City, Paterson, and Newark.