Important Assets in a Divorce Settlement
Splitting Assets in Your Divorce
As a couple, it can be hard to end the marriage. According to the CDC, New Jersey divorces happen at a rate of 2.7 per 1,000 couples. When it comes time to split the assets, you need to consider a few things.
How Does New Jersey Split Assets?
When dividing those assets, you need to know whether the state is considered a community property or an equitable distribution state. New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the courts will split assets in a fair manner. In most cases, that does not automatically mean a 50/50 split.
What Is Equitable Distribution?
Dividing assets through equitable distribution can sometimes be more complicated than is the case in a community property state. Several types of assets will be divided in a divorce. Checking, savings, and money market accounts are some of the obvious ones. Generally, a couple will obtain other types of financial assets during the course of the marriage. Many assets could be subjected to equitable distribution rules, including:
- The marital home and other real estate properties
- Automobiles, planes, recreational vehicles, and boats
- Retirement funds
- Valuables, including antique furniture, artwork, jewelry, and collectibles
- Shared debts
- Lottery winnings
Any asset eligible for distribution must have been acquired during the marriage. These assets are known as “marital property” and will be the only assets subject to division in a divorce settlement.
All marital assets are evaluated for equitable distribution in a divorce settlement. In some cases, the lawyers will look at bank statements. For larger assets, a party may hire an independent appraiser to assess the value of real estate property or a business. A fair valuation of all assets can help to ensure fair distribution to both parties.
Dividing Assets in a Divorce
The last step in equitable distribution is the most complicated one. When the courts divide assets, they will have broad discretion. Dividing assets is based on many factors. These include:
- Marriage duration
- Age and health of the spouses
- Marital standard of living
- Economic circumstances of both parties
The judge will have the discretion to determine how to weigh each factor. In general, in longer marriages, both spouses have contributed to the marital standard of living. Any debt incurred during the marriage is also divided equally between the parties. However, if one spouse acquired debt through their actions, that debt remains with them.
Often, the mortgage of the home is the largest debt, and it may require the sale of the house. With that, the proceeds will be divided between the two parties. However, one spouse could buy out the interest of the other in the house.
In New Jersey, the divorcing couple can negotiate a division of property without assistance from the courts. They may work with an attorney or mediator to divide the assets. If there are complications in the process, the court may have to be involved.
Equitable distribution is often considered the fairest way to divide assets in a divorce settlement. With the basics of equitable distribution covered, pay attention to these assets in your divorce case.
Restricted Stock Units
You might have acquired restricted stock if you or your spouse has a high-level job in certain industries. Those are part of the individual’s income stream. While it is often known as deferred compensation, the stocks differ slightly from the well-known annual bonus. There are several ways that a company can structure restricted stock. In fact, some companies are constantly updating and rewriting the terms of the stocks. You should think of restricted stock as future income that is linked to the length of employment or the individual’s performance with the company.
If you are a non-earning spouse, it’s important to account for these restricted stock units. You or the other spouse could have earned that stock during your marriage, which must be cashed out for the settlement. While the restricted stock is not transferable, other property can be divided to account for those assets. Remember that different states will treat restricted stock in various ways. For that reason, you may want to talk to a divorce attorney who can advise you whether the restricted preferred stock will be a part of the settlement.
If you or your spouse is a federal or state employee, they may be entitled to a pension. Not only do federal and state jobs provide these benefits, but some private companies offer them as well. You will want to know if anyone has a pension in your household. If you are not the pension holder, you should ensure that this future income is divided in the settlement, especially if the other spouse earned it during your marriage.
Remember that the estimated payment on a recent pension statement is just an estimate. The future monthly payments could be more or less than that amount. Plus, if the company offered a pension but filed for bankruptcy, that could affect the pension amount. Sometimes, an accountant might need to be hired to conduct a pension valuation.
If you are a non-military spouse of a military member, you might not be able to keep those benefits after the divorce. Keep in mind the 20-20-20 rule. For those who want to keep getting benefits, your spouse has to serve for at least 20 years. Additionally, you must have been married for at least 20 years, and the military service has to overlap by at least 20 years. Spouses who want to keep their military benefits must complete the proper paperwork. If you have waived any rights, you might not be eligible for those benefits after the divorce. For those divorces involving former or current military members, you may want to consult with a divorce attorney.
Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrency
You may have to divide those assets if you or the other spouse has invested in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrency can be held in several ways, including with a major investment company or as an individual with stock certificates. In some cases, these holdings may be hard to trace. These investments are volatile, and you may need to hire a professional to evaluate them.
Keep Track of Your Assets
It is always a good idea to keep track of your household assets. You can document who owns them and where they are located. Keep all of that information in a secure place. If you are heading towards a divorce, you will know where some of those assets are hidden. Tracking your assets can help in other ways during your marriage. These assets could be beneficial if one spouse dies or you need to update your will. A listing of assets ensures that everything is accounted for in a divorce settlement.
Divorces can be stressful for both parties, especially when it comes time to divide those assets. Talking to an attorney may help you understand this distribution process in New Jersey. Visit our website or call our Hackensack office at (201) 343-0078 to schedule a consultation.