When going through a divorce, who gets to keep the blender and who has the right to visit the family dog are probably the last things on your mind. Even though most couples want everything to be settled quickly, you shouldn’t overlook the importance of property division and splitting assets in a fair, equitable manner.
As a proponent of matrimonial mediation and keeping divorce cases out of court, I believe that property can and should be divided in a fair manner that addresses the needs of both parties and protects their interests. Without give and take and reasonable expectations, the process comes to a halt, costs increase, and the court will eventually decide who gets what – which might not be ideal for either party. As a family law attorney and mediator, my goal is to help both parties settle their differences and achieve a fair, effective divorce agreement.
Making Equitable Distribution Work in New Jersey
Like most other states, New Jersey follows a principle known as equitable distribution. This doesn’t mean that property is necessarily divided down the middle. Instead, a portion of ownership is assigned to each spouse. Some items are considered separate property, meaning they are not subject to distribution during the divorce process. Items that may qualify as separate property include gifts from a third-party, items acquired before the marriage, and inherited property. All other marital assets and liabilities will be divided fairly.
Before determining what property is subject to equitable distribution and what property is considered separate property, couples need to itemize all property and assets. Once the items have been listed and valued, ownership can be assigned. Common assets and liabilities that are divided include the following:
- Personal property
- Business interests
- Retirement funds
- Bank accounts
- Household items
- Mortgages, loans, and leases
Valuing Assets and Dividing the Property
In most cases, identifying the assets is only the beginning of the equitable distribution process. Before negotiating a divorce agreement, the parties must know how much their marital estate is worth. In many cases, the parties must hire experts to value certain property. The most common assets that require valuations include businesses, homes, retirement accounts and pensions, vehicles, and collectibles.
Once the property is identified and valued, the parties can determine how to split up their marital estate. Today, almost 90 percent of divorces are settled with a property settlement agreement (often called a “PSA”). The PSA spells out exactly how the property will be divided. Working with an experienced matrimonial attorney or mediator to create a property settlement agreement will help you protect your interests in property, stay out of court, minimize costs and reach a solution quickly and effectively. As your attorney or mediator, my goal is to resolve property division in a fair and amicable manner.
Contact the Law Office of Andrew R. Fischer, Monmouth county divorce attorney , today to schedule a free consultation. I serve couples and individual clients throughout central New Jersey, and I will work personally with you and your spouse to demystify the process and make equitable distribution work for both parties.