Considering how many assets and debts the average couple acquires during their marriage, it's no wonder that property division becomes a major source of contention during most divorces. New Jersey, like most other states, follows the law of equitable distribution, which is a concept that's often misunderstood. One of the most common misunderstandings concerns the word "equitable", which most people view as meaning "equal". However, equitable is defined as "fair and impartial", and determining what those terms mean within each marriage requires the examination of many factors.
These factors include, but are not limited to:
- The duration of the marriage.
- The properties and liabilities brought into the marriage by each party.
- Each spouse's age and physical/ mental health.
- Each spouse's earning capacity in terms of education, job skills, child care responsibilities, etc.
The number of factors that will be considered depend on the circumstances between you and your spouse, but you can be sure that just about every aspect of your marriage will be scrutinized in order to make the fairest decision. This can become a costly and time-consuming process, so it's highly recommended that you negotiate a settlement agreement with your spouse if at all possible. You can do this by contacting a state certified divorce mediator, who will attempt to help you and your spouse work out an agreement. The mediator is trained to facilitate communication and help you work through disagreements, but they cannot offer you legal advice, so you should consult a family law attorney through the entire process.
An attorney can also give you an idea of how the courts are ruling in cases that are similar to yours. While there's no guarantee on how a judge will view your situation, a family law attorney with extensive trial experience can give you a realistic picture of what you can expect if you need to proceed with litigation. While your attorney's evaluation of "equitable" may not be in line with what you feel is fair, it's important not to get upset or discouraged. Knowing the possible outcomes ahead of time will allow you to plan for the worst, while formulating the best legal strategy for a favorable settlement. This information is helpful even if you don't plan on going to court, since it gives you a good idea of what to ask for or concede during the mediation process.
For more information on New Jersey's equitable distribution laws, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Our lawyers include Vincent C. DeLuca, who is a divorce mediator, collaborative divorce attorney and matrimonial law attorney, in addition to being a family law attorney with over 20 years of trial experience. Mr. DeLuca has the knowledge and experience to answer all your questions regarding property division, as well as any other divorce related issues, including child custody, domestic support and tax liabilities. He will be happy to advise you of your rights and options during a free initial consultation.