Equitable Distribution in New Jersey

The division of property and pensions is also known as equitable distribution in NJ, the term commonly used for dispensing marital assets and debts. “Equitable” means to apply a standard of fairness, which doesn’t necessarily mean “equal” since a variety of circumstances dictate the outcome. The word “marital” signifies assets and debts accumulated from the date of marriage until the date of a filing for divorce.


Examples of assets that people sometimes forget to consider are pension plans and other retirement accounts, as well as the values of businesses. Moreover, assets accumulated during a marriage need not be in joint names for them to be subject to equitable distribution. This includes the division of:

  • Accounts
  • Airline Points
  • Annuities
  • Bank Accounts
  • Brokerage and Stock Accounts
  • Businesses
  • Cars
  • Certificates of Deposit
  • Homes
  • Life Insurance Cash Value
  • Retirement Accounts
  • Timeshares

Division of Assets and Debts

Assets accumulated premaritally, inherited, or obtained via gift are treated differently during divorce than those accumulated during the marriage and are sometimes referred to as exempt or immune assets. There is an entire line of cases dealing with the treatment of exempt assets and when it is appropriate for the dispensing of marital assets and debts to a spouse. Examples of when this is suitable are when one or both spouses actively increase the value of an exempt asset during a marriage.


These are very fact-sensitive issues that do not fall into a one-size-fits-all result but require careful analysis and the tedious but necessary task of tracking the genesis of the assets and growth at the time of and throughout the marriage. Equitable distribution also applies to debts in a divorce. These include mortgages, credit card debts, loans, medical bills, and a multitude of other obligations that married couples accumulate. Because of all the twists, turns, and variable results that are possible in distributing assets, it is important to have a family law attorney with significant experience on your side.