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Dividing Homes and Properties

Morris County Equitable Distribution Attorneys

Building a solid foundation for your family’s future

During a New Jersey divorce, marital property is divided according to equitable distribution, which means it’s divided fairly but not always equally. To determine how to split property such as the family home “fairly,” the courts consider a slew of financial information.

The property division attorneys at Jacobs Berger, LLC have decades of combined experience in working with clients to accurately gather information, create a plan for the future, and provide skillful representation in a property division agreement.

We’ve represented clients in all kinds of equitable distribution cases and can work with you to creatively resolve matters of family law—including who gets the house.

If you’re getting divorced, contact us. Our experienced property division attorneys can guide you through the process—and help ensure the security of your financial future.

Dividing Real Estate During Divorce

In New Jersey divorces, marital property is divided according to equitable distribution—fairly, but not necessarily equally.

One of the most common assets which must be divided is the family home. In addition to the obvious financial complications, there are also issues involving sentimental attachment, the comfort and preference of children, and much more.

Additionally, many couples own other real estate, such as vacation homes, timeshares, or business properties.

The home and property division attorneys at Jacobs Berger understand that properties mean much more than dollars and cents.

Family properties represent memories, the home where your children grew up, and a culmination of your hard work and effort. We take these properties seriously because we know how important they are.

The Process for Dividing Owned Homes and Properties

Since your family home or other owned properties are considered financial assets, they’re subject to equitable division, which means a fair—though not necessarily a 50/50—split.

Dividing homes and properties can be a complicated, emotional process, but the first step is to get all real estate properly appraised so that the fair market value can be determined.

It’s very common to use real estate professionals and other experts to appraise your owned property. Depending on your circumstances, you and your spouse may choose to jointly select an appraiser or may each hire an appraiser to work on your behalf. Sometimes, if you and your spouse can agree, you can use real estate experts to provide a Comparative Market Analysis for your properties.

For business properties, appraisals may also come from industry experts who can weigh in on fair market value.

With the support of property division attorneys, parties can identify how much their marital properties are worth and to what degree each party is entitled. At this point, there are three primary ways homes and properties can be divided:

  • Sell the properties and divide the net sales money.
    • The simplest and often cleanest solution is to sell the owned real estate and equitably divide the net gain.
  • One spouse “buys out” the other.
    • When one spouse desires to stay in the family home or retain other real estate, they may offer to buy out the other spouse’s equity in a property.
  • Retain joint possession.
    • In some situations, it may be possible for an agreement to include one spouse remaining in the family home while both retain legal and/or equitable ownership. This can be done to keep children in their family home until moving out of the house or for other personal reasons. Divorce doesn’t preclude two individuals from jointly owning property if that’s their wish.

Whichever path you wish to take, the family law attorneys at Jacobs Berger have extensive experience in helping clients understand their options under equitable distribution and form a plan for moving forward.

NJ equitable distribution factors

When it comes to dividing assets during a divorce, New Jersey courts consider a number of factors.

Some of the factors that may be considered in determining equitable distribution are:

  • Each party’s financial situation and capacity to earn (including education, job experience, and training)
  • Individual assets, such as retirement plans and separately-owned businesses
  • What each party contributed in terms of marital assets and non-monetary assets (ex: childcare)
  • Duration of the marriage
  • Marital agreements, including prenuptial agreements
  • Each person’s future needs and responsibilities
  • The parties’ health and ages
  • Alimony

By considering an extensive amount of information, the courts try to attain a more complete understanding of the parties’ financial situations in order to determine how to fairly divide property. Having legal guidance can be extremely helpful when it comes to navigating this process.

Dividing property pre-owned before marriage

There are a lot of nuances that can go into determining what’s marital versus separate or pre-marital property. As a general rule, property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property.

Property owned before marriage isn’t always guaranteed to be considered separate.

Gifts given by a third party or inheritance are typically treated as being owned individually. Conversely, if a house is owned by one person before marriage but the other begins contributing to the mortgage after marriage, then the courts may view the house as marital property.

If property is ultimately determined to be marital, then it will be subject to equitable distribution. Individually owned property isn’t subject to equitable division, but it will be considered by the courts when deciding what a fair (or equitable) distribution of assets looks like.

How a Property Division Attorney Can Help You

Working with a property division attorney can help you better navigate the equitable distribution process.

In addition to legal guidance, your attorney can help you determine what information needs to be gathered and can draw on a wealth of experience in coming up with creative solutions for your situation.

The family law attorneys at Jacobs Berger provide skillful legal guidance in navigating equitable distribution and work with clients in a variety of situations to find genuine, workable solutions.

NJ Home and Property Division FAQs

New Jersey isn’t a community property state. Instead, it’s an equitable distribution or marital property state. This means that instead of simply dividing things equally, property is divided equitably, or fairly.

In other words, the divorce process in New Jersey varies on a case-by-case basis and decisions are made based on each party’s entire financial situation and future financial prospects.

Since the equitable distribution process can be so complex, many people choose to retain a divorce attorney—even if they pursue divorce through alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation.

If you divorce in New Jersey and own a home together, that home is likely subject to equitable distribution. This means that the property must be divided fairly but not necessarily equally.

In order to decide what counts as “fair,” the courts will look at a complete financial picture of both parties. This means that, among other information-gathering steps, the home must be appraised to determine its fair market value.

Ultimately, the parties may choose to sell the home and split the proceeds, have one person buy the other out of the home, or work out an agreement of continued joint ownership where one person continues to stay in the home.

The definition of marital property involves a lot of nuances in New Jersey, and a direct conversation with a property division attorney is often the best way to understand exactly what would be considered marital property in your unique situation.

That said, in general, marital property is:

  • Property acquired during the marriage, even if it’s only in one person’s name
  • Separate property that has been improved during the marriage, particularly if the improvement is the result of direct efforts or contributions of the parties
  • Separate property which is then actively managed or invested in using marital funds during the marriage (although this is a fact-sensitive analysis)

Likewise, separate property, subject to exceptions, is typically:

  • Property acquired prior to marriage that hasn’t been improved during the marriage
  • Gifts from third parties
  • Inheritance
  • Property acquired after filing for divorce

However, because New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, the courts consider separate property in determining each person’s financial circumstances and how to fairly divide the marital property.

Work with Trusted NJ Property Division Attorneys

At Jacobs Berger, our property division attorneys view each divorce case as an opportunity to help our clients build a solid foundation for their family’s future.

Our team works closely with each client to de-stress the divorce process while tenaciously pursuing the outcome which will best serve the client’s individual needs and concerns.

If you’re going through a divorce and need legal help in regards to the equitable distribution of your family home or other real estate, contact us for a strategic planning session. We can help you protect your financial future.