What Is Community Property vs. Equitable Distribution States?

family split divorce

The division of assets is one of the most hotly contested issues in a New Jersey divorce. So, if you and your spouse are currently undergoing a divorce, you may be wondering whether New Jersey is a community property state or an equitable distribution state, and with that, what laws are in place to determine what property you will be left with. Read on to discover what is considered a community property state or an equitable distribution state and how one of the seasoned New Jersey equitable distribution attorneys at Haber, Silver, Simpson & Russoniello can walk you through this.

What is separate property versus marital property?

Before getting into community property and equitable distribution states, it is important to overview the difference between separate and marital property.

First off, separate property entails the assets that you or your spouse owned individually before your marriage or after your date of separation. Examples of such assets are as follows:

  • Gifts that were given solely to you or your spouse.
  • Property that was inherited solely by you or your spouse.
  • Property that was never used by the other spouse throughout the marriage.
  • Awards that were given from a personal injury claim.

On the other hand, marital property entails assets that you and your spouse acquired together during your marriage. Importantly, this is regardless of who paid for the assets, and examples of such are as follows:

  • Wages earned by you and your spouse.
  • Any personal property (i.e., homes, cars, furniture, artwork) purchased by you and your spouse with these wages.
  • The bank accounts, retirement accounts, and pensions that were acquired during the marriage.
  • The gifts that were given to one another throughout the marriage.

What is considered a community property state?

A community property state is one where separate property is awarded to respective spouses and marital property is split equally. There are only nine states that follow this ruling, and they are as follows:

  •  Arizona.
  • California.
  • Idaho.
  • Louisiana.
  • Nevada.
  • New Mexico.
  • Texas.
  • Washington.
  • Wisconsin.

What is considered an equitable distribution state?

An equitable distribution state is one where separate property is given to the respective spouses, yet marital property is divided in a manner that the family court deems as fair and just. Importantly, “fair and just” does not translate to an equal 50/50 divide. Forty states follow this equitable distribution law, one of them being New Jersey.

How will asset division work in the state of New Jersey?

If you and your spouse manage to negotiate your asset division agreement without intervention, then you may present this agreement to the New Jersey court. However, if you and your spouse are not amicable and unable to do so, then the New Jersey court will have to turn to the equitable distribution law. From here, they will award property based on what state law views as fair and just.

For more information, contact our Morris County divorce and separation law firm today.