The distribution of assets and liabilities is often times a matter of contention between divorcing spouses. New Jersey is an equitable distribution state which means that in the event of a divorce, the marital property is not automatically divided 50/50. It is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. Assets may include real property, a business, bank accounts, automobiles, stock options, pensions, etc. Liabilities may include credit card debt, student loans, personal loans, encumbrances against real property, etc. Each spouse is entitled to a portion of the marital property in relation to his/her contributions.
It is a rebuttable presumption that each party made a substantial contribution, either financial or non-financial, to the acquisition of income and property while the party was married. Generally, New Jersey courts have defined marital property to be property acquired by either or both spouses from the date of marriage to the filing of the divorce. There are, however, some assets that are exempt from equitable distribution. The general rule is that an asset acquired prior to the marriage which is not commingled is exempt from equitable distribution. As well, an asset that is received via inheritance and/or third party gift is also exempt, as long as it is not commingled. The premarital portion of retirement assets are also typically exempt. It is the burden of the party seeking to have an asset deemed exempt to prove that the asset is, in fact, exempt. The court is granted wide discretion to determine the most equitable way to distribute the assets and will consider a long list of factors in determining a fair division of assets and liabilities.
Alimony is often one of the most contentious aspects of a divorce because it likely has a significant impact on the quality of your life, post-divorce. Whether you are the obligor or the recipient, the amount of the alimony award will impact the lifestyle that you are able to enjoy. In New Jersey there are several different forms of alimony and the Court may even grant a combination of two or more types of alimony. Pendente Lite alimony is temporary in nature, as the purpose is to permit the parties to be able to pay necessary expenses during the pendency of the divorce. Open Durational alimony can only be granted for a marriage that lasted more than 20 years and it is presumed to terminate upon retirement unless the obligee can convince the Court that alimony should continue beyond that time. Limited Durational alimony (term alimony), has a specific end date but cannot exceed the length of the marriage. Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded in a scenario where a spouse requires support to become self-sufficient. Reimbursement alimony may be awarded when one spouse contributed to the other spouse’s education or training and the marriage did not last long enough for the one who contributed to benefit financially from that education or training.
It is important to understand that the calculation of alimony is not a set formula. The Court will consider a number of factors, in addition to the length of the marriage and the respective incomes and ages of the parties when considering whether to award alimony and the amount and duration of the award. As of January 1, 2019, alimony is no longer considered tax-deductible and that must be taken into consideration when calculating the amount of the support award. The death of either party will trigger a termination of alimony. Moreover, if a dependent spouse remarries, alimony payments automatically end. Further, an alimony award may be modified if there is a substantial change in the circumstances of either party, such as a dramatic decrease in income, disability, retirement, etc.
Child support is intended to ensure that the needs of the children are being met irrespective of which parent the child resides with. In New Jersey, child support is the right of the child, meaning that parents have a legal obligation to support their children. Child support is intended to help a custodial parent cover expenses related to raising that child. These expenditures commonly include the cost of food, clothes, and medical bills, but can also cover a wide range of other expenses. Child Support is governed by the guidelines which provide a clear outline of how to calculate support, as well as what the support is intended to include. Once a child support award has been established, it may be modified if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. Moreover, a parent’s obligation to support their child will continue until such time as the child has been deemed emancipated. Emancipation will typically occur once the child has graduated from high school unless the child is enrolled in college or vocational training on a full-time basis.
Each and every case is unique and deserves personalized attention. We have the experience and expertise to handle all aspects of a divorce. We know that our clients need both moral support and zealous advocates. We provide personal attention and direct support to our clients during what can be a very challenging time.