The title of the movie “Yours, Mine and Ours” pretty accurately summarizes equitable distribution laws in New Jersey. Unlike community property states in which pretty much everything a couple owns is treated as being joint property in the event of a divorce, equitable distribution classifies some property as separate and some of it as marital. Regardless of how you classify the property owned by a divorcing couple, one thing that is for certain is that equitable does not necessarily mean equal.
Marital property is generally taken to be property acquired during the marriage other than those items classified as separate property. Separate property non-marital property belonging to the spouse who owned it prior to the marriage, inherited it or received it as a gift during the marriage.
The classification of separate property and marital property can get a little tricky when a person owns property prior to the marriage that is improved upon during the marriage. The reason this can be tricky is that the source of the funds used to make the improvements can change separate property in whole or in part into marital property.
For example, a husband owns a home before he meets and eventually marries his wife. During the marriage, the couple added an extension to the home using their joint savings. A judge hearing the divorce case would be asked to determine the extent to which the value of the asset was improved by the remodeling and how much of that improved value should go to the wife.
In deciding the property division portion of a divorce, judges will look at several factors including, what contributions have been made by each of the parties to the acquisition or improvement of the property and other factors as the judge may determine to be relevant.
Asset division can involve complex issues of valuation. This posting is not offered as legal advice on this topic. A person wanting legal advice about equitable distribution should obtain it from a New Jersey divorce attorney.