What is equitable distribution and how does it apply in a divorce case?

Equitable distribution is a fancy term to describe the division of assets and debts in a divorce. And what it means is that a court will require the parties to fairly—and that’s what equitably means—divide their assets and debts between them. There’s a whole series of factors that we look at in evaluating what fair means in your particular circumstances.

Does equitable distribution mean that assets are divided 50/50 in New Jersey?

No. There’s no case or statute or law that requires assets to be equitably distributed or divided 50/50. Many times they are divided 50/50 because it’s a long-term marriage and both parties contributed equally to the creation of the marital wealth, if you will. When there’s a homemaker spouse or a dependent spouse, just because they stayed home and took care of the kids and home while you worked doesn’t mean that they would get less because their contribution to the marriage is deemed to be just as valuable as an income provider.

What if one spouse had an affair? Does that come into account when you’re figuring out who gets what in terms of the division of assets in a divorce?

New Jersey is a no-fault state, meaning that marital fault does not play a role. Marital fault, marital wrongdoing or immoral conduct in a marriage, except in the most egregious of circumstances—and it’s extremely rare—does not play any kind of role in the division of assets or in equitable distribution. So, the answer is, “No.” If your spouse has an affair, that doesn’t mean they get less. The only exception to that would be if your spouse who’s having an affair uses marital resources to engage in a relationship outside the marriage, then those resources need to be basically refunded to you or refunded back into the marital pot of assets so they can be equitably distributed.