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Equitable Distribution: Understanding New Jersey's Approach

Posted by Jason C. Tuchman | Mar 18, 2024

Equitable distribution is a crucial pillar in family law, ensuring fairness and justice in dividing assets and liabilities during a divorce. Among the states in the United States, New Jersey upholds a distinct approach to equitable distribution, emphasizing fairness and balance in the allocation of marital property. Let's delve into the nuances of equitable distribution in the Garden State.

What is Equitable Distribution?

Equitable distribution refers to the principle that marital assets and debts should be divided fairly, though not necessarily equally, between spouses during a divorce. Unlike community property states where assets are divided 50/50, equitable distribution states like New Jersey consider various factors to determine a fair distribution based on each spouse's contributions, needs, and circumstances.

New Jersey's Approach

New Jersey follows a three-step process to achieve equitable distribution:

  1. Identification of Marital Property: The first step involves identifying and categorizing marital property, which generally includes assets acquired during the marriage, such as real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, businesses, and personal property acquired during the marriage. In New Jersey, marital property also includes assets acquired by either spouse individually during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on the title.
  2. Valuation of Marital Property: Once identified, the marital assets must be valued. Valuation can be straightforward for assets like bank accounts but more complex for businesses, real estate, and investments. Some assets can be valued through financial statements or tax returns. However, some more complex assets may require professional assistance, such as a business valuator, a real estate appraiser, or a forensic accountant to value them.
  3. Distribution of Marital Property: Finally, the court considers various factors to distribute marital property equitably. New Jersey law requires courts to consider factors such as the duration of the marriage, each spouse's contributions to the marriage (including homemaking and childcare), the standard of living established during the marriage, the economic circumstances of each spouse, and any prenuptial agreements.

Challenges and Considerations

While New Jersey's equitable distribution system aims to achieve fairness, it's not without its challenges and complexities:

  • Subjectivity: Determining what is "equitable" can be subjective and may vary from case to case, depending on the judge's interpretation of the factors involved.
  • Asset Tracing: Tracing assets to determine whether they are marital or separate property can be intricate, especially in cases involving commingled assets or inheritances.
  • Emotional Considerations: Divorce is inherently emotional, and navigating the distribution of assets can further exacerbate tensions between spouses. Seeking guidance from experienced legal and financial professionals can help alleviate some of the emotional burden.


Equitable distribution in New Jersey underscores the state's commitment to fairness and equity in divorce proceedings. By considering various factors and prioritizing fairness over strict equality, New Jersey aims to ensure both spouses can move forward with financial stability and independence post-divorce. However, navigating the complexities of equitable distribution requires careful consideration and expert guidance to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all parties involved.

About the Author

Jason C. Tuchman

Jason C. Tuchman is a Member of the firm who specializes in assisting families with divorce and family law matters.

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