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What Is The Difference Between An Equitable Distribution And A Community Property State? | Hackensack Divorce Lawyers

When dividing assets during the divorce process, the method of splitting assets depends on what state you live in. Most states today use the equitable distribution concept for marital asset division, but some states use what’s called a community property concept. The differences in these methods have a huge effect on final divorce settlements, especially because assets are usually split before other important divorce decisions are made. To learn more, read this blog or contact one of our Morris County Divorce Lawyers today!


Essentially, equitable distribution is when the court divides marital property based on a large number of factors. The goal is to reach a fair and reasonable agreement that fits the needs of each spouse. Though, equitable doesn’t necessarily mean equal. Before assets are split, a judge must decide which assets will be considered personal property and which will be considered marital property. In New Jersey, personal property generally is any property owned prior to a marriage and marital property is any property acquired while a couple is married. However, personal property could be converted to marital property if the spouses choose to. Some personal property could also be considered marital property if the other spouse contributed to an increase in the value of the property, like a house or business.

When making equitable distribution decisions, the judge will base the final agreement on various factors, including:

  • The age and health of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s income
  • Length of the marriage
  • Written marital agreements
  • Each spouse’s financial contribution to marital property
  • Present value of marital property


Only nine states use community property rules when dividing assets during a divorce: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In this distribution method, the personal property automatically goes to each spouse (whoever owned it prior to the marriage). Marital property is then split roughly in half between the two spouses. This is much different than equitable distribution because the settlement decision isn’t based on what’s fair for each spouse. Unlike equitable distribution, this concept is based on the premise that marital property should be divided equally between two divorcing spouses. However, many spouses prefer to reach asset division agreements on their own so they don’t have to worry how the judge will split marital property.

If you’re currently going through the divorce process and you’re worried about your assets, you need an experienced divorce attorney to fight for you. Thankfully, Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark are on your side! Contact our talented team today for an initial consultation.