Some States Assign Dollar Value To Degrees In Property Division

Something that happens on the other side of the Hudson River in divorce cases may interest our New Jersey readers who were contemplating a move. A few states in the U.S., including New Jersey’s neighbor, still assign a property value to degrees and professional licenses earned by spouses, and considers their worth an asset to be divided in the property division process.

Take, for example, the case of a couple who divorced in 2009. The woman was trying to earn a nursing degree while working multiple jobs to support her children. But her then-estranged husband argued during the divorce court that he should be entitled to money that the woman would earn during her life because of her nursing degree.

The law was written decades ago to protect women in divorces, because less women worked at the time than they do now. Now many women have degrees and licenses just like their husbands, and the law seems antiquated.

One of the attorneys involved in the original case that upheld the law in the 1980s believes that the law equates to treating the spouse with a degree like a servant to the other spouse because the degree holder would have to work more just to pay off the debt owed to the other spouse.

In the case of the nurse, her husband’s experts pegged the value of her nursing degree at more than $800,000, while her team valued it at around $100,000. The court settled on $753,488. She was ordered to pay 25 percent of the value.

New Jersey residents should feel fortunate that this is not a part of their property division process. But, for those contemplating a move to the city with a spouse, this is something to contemplate.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “After Divorce, a Degree Is Costly,” Sophia Hollander, Dec. 23, 2012