New Jersey Marital Property Laws

When you get married, property acquired during the marriage is generally called "marital property." In contrast, property that is acquired by one spouse before marriage, as a gift, or as an inheritance, is referred to as “separate property.” This property remains separate upon a divorce, and the court will not distribute this property to the other spouse. The concept of marital property really only becomes relevant when a couple gets divorced, as it hits at the center of a main source of conflict -- who gets what after the divorce?

Marital and Community Property Basics

A few states recognize the concept of "community property," in which all property is considered to be jointly owned and subject to an even split, but most states (including New Jersey) do not. Instead, New Jersey follows a system of equitable distribution in which the court divides up assets in a manner it deems to be fair and reasonable. This may or may not consist of a 50/50 split of assets, depending on whether each party's interests are equitably represented.

For instance, a stay-at-home parent in New Jersey contributes a great deal for the family (and in support of their spouse) but isn't paid for this work. Equitable distribution states such as New Jersey recognize this when deciding, for example, who gets the house.

New Jersey Marital Property Laws at a Glance

Divorce often is an adversarial process benefitting from legal counsel, who can best explain the finer points of New Jersey family law. However, the following chart highlights important details of the Garden State's marital property laws in plain English.

Statute

New Jersey Statutes: Title 2A, Section 34-23h

Statutory Definition of Marital Property

Under New Jersey law, marital property includes all property, both real and personal, which was legally and beneficially acquired by either of them during the marriage.

This excludes any gifts (unless given to one spouse from the other) or inheritances.

Dower and Curtesy

  • Dower and curtesy abolished as to all property obtained after May 28, 1980 (Title 3B, Section 28-2)
  • Some rights exist regarding property obtained before that date (Title 3B, Section 28-1, et seq.)

Factors Considered Relevant to the Equitable Distribution of Property

New Jersey courts don't automatically split marital property down the middle, but use an equitable distribution system that considers the following factors:

  • Duration of the marriage;
  • Age and physical/emotional health of each spouse;
  • Each spouse's income;
  • Any debts or liabilities;
  • The couple's standard of living;
  • The economic circumstances of each spouse;
  • Each spouse's contribution to the couple's marital property (including a spouse’s contribution as a homemaker);
  • Earning capacity of each spouse;
  • Any written agreements before or during the marriage concerning property distribution (such as a prenup); and
  • Any other factors the court deems relevant.

How New Jersey Courts Determine What is Equitable

The court will distribute property after conducting a 3-step process:

  1. Determine which property is to be distributed (see the definition of "marital property" above);
  2. Determine the value of the marital property; and
  3. Calculate an equitable division of that property.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

New Jersey Marital Property Laws: Related Resources

Getting Divorced in New Jersey? An Attorney Can Help

In addition to any children you may have had together, parties to a divorce will have to sort out who gets what when you go your separate ways. This process can get quite complicated but generally works out smoothly when you have the right help. Contact an experienced New Jersey divorce attorney today for help with your case.

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