One of the responsibilities of New Jersey’s divorce courts is distributing marital property equitably between two spouses. Many couples may assume “equitable” means that a judge divides assets equally in half. Equitable does not mean equal in divorce court; it refers to fairness, which a judge bases on each spouse’s personal needs.
An acquisition made during a marriage entitles each spouse to a fair share of ownership rights regardless of who purchased it. Because two spouses contributed to a shared household, New Jersey divorce laws consider income and property as belonging to both. If a spouse contributed substantially more income, he or she may petition the court for a larger allocation of an asset’s ownership.
Factors a judge considers for division
An individual seeking complete ownership of an asset during a divorce proceeding may receive it depending on certain factors. A judge could review a spouse’s income and ability to maintain it before deciding to award ownership. Age, health and other personal circumstances could face scrutiny.
If successful, a spouse awarded sole ownership of an asset may need to buy out the other spouse by paying a fair value for it. A professional valuation of an asset’s market price could determine how much is fair. When a couple divides a business, the court may also consider the fair value of a spouse’s contribution, such as skills or services.
Ownership of a primary residence
Many New Jersey couples contest ownership of the family’s residence during a divorce. Taking custody of the children and requiring financial support could have a considerable impact on a judge’s decision.
As noted by USA Today, a property with an attached mortgage may require refinancing so that a spouse can assume its debt and take title. In some cases, a mortgage may require both spouses’ names; a divorcing couple may need to negotiate how they will dispose of the house in the future.
Effective negotiation could lead to a divorce decree that outlines an agreed-upon and workable arrangement for property division. Without each spouse’s input, however, New Jersey judges may decide based on what they think is fair.