In a divorce, dividing assets and liabilities can be challenging. New Jersey law says that spouses should divide marital property equitably. But couples often disagree on how the law applies to their cases. What constitutes “marital property?” What does “equitably” mean? And what happens if a spouse attempts to hide or dispose of assets?
At Shane and White, LLC, in Edison, we answer these questions and similar ones in the New Jersey divorces we handle. Our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys work closely with clients to guide them through the divorce process. We can answer your questions, help you know what to expect and advocate forcefully, protecting your assets and your future.
Equitable distribution divides marital property and debts accumulated during your marriage. Equitable does not mean equal. It means fair. Courts in New Jersey look to state statutes to aid in this fair division of assets.
To start the process, each spouse must make full, financial disclosure of his or her assets. They must complete a Case Information Statement, which lists all the assets, liabilities, incomes and expenses the parties shared as a joint, intact unit, no matter how they were titled.
They must also engage in a period of discovery. Discovery requires uncovering as much relevant information as possible about the couple’s financial situation. Spouses may be required to answer questions and produce documents, including tax returns, bank statements, retirement statements, stock certificates, wills, books, records, deeds and potentially business ownership documents during this process. This may seem like a lot, but we will be with you throughout the process to help make sure that everything goes smoothly.
If necessary, we may call in experts who can assist with the process. Experts can be critical in uncovering assets that your soon-to-be-ex is attempting to hide. They can also be useful when assets have disappeared, often because your ex secretly used them for an improper purpose (like gambling or drugs) during the marriage.
Once we identify assets through discovery, we must then determine which assets are subject to equitable distribution by classifying all property as either marital property or separate property:
Dividing marital property and separate property can be complicated. Sometimes these assets are mixed together or “comingled.” For example, you may have owned a home before the marriage. If you sold it and used the proceeds to buy a family home during the marriage, part of that family home might be considered marital property. Part of it might be considered separate property.
Once an asset has been identified for equitable distribution, a value must be identified for that asset. Bank accounts are more simply valued given their present market value or their closing balance upon the date the complaint for divorce was filed. Assets such as homes, stock accounts, pensions, family-owned and operated businesses are much more difficult to value. A forensic expert or accountant may need to provide a valuation, appraisal or cash-flow report to understand better one spouses’ equitable entitlement.
After the assets are valued, they must be divided equitably. The court considers factors such as the length of the marriage, the physical and emotional health of the parties, their standard of living during the marriage, prenuptial agreements and the earning ability of each party. This can be complex, so it is best to have a forceful advocate on your side—an experienced attorney who will speak up on your behalf and make sure that your financial interests are protected.
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. This website is designed to provide general information only, and does not represent the opinions of Shane and White, LLC attorneys. The information is not guaranteed to be correct, complete or up to date with recent legal developments, verdicts or settlements. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your specific facts/circumstances/case. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and emails, but note that contacting us alone does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you would like advice regarding your individual situation, you should contact Shane and White, LLC. to schedule a consultation to obtain legal advice. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.
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