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Divorce in New Jersey: Who Gets The House?

A dissolution of a marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership entails the unwinding of shared property and assets. Of course, this becomes even more complicated when the couple owns a home together.

The laws regulating how a court in New Jersey divides property affect what happens with the family home during a divorce. An experienced family law attorney at Rosenblum can analyze your specific circumstances and determine whether you have a claim on your family home in your divorce. 

Understanding New Jersey’s Approach to Property Division

The first consideration when dividing property in a divorce is which assets are marital property and which 

Marital property is almost any asset that was legally and beneficially obtained during the marriage. This does not include inheritances or gifts, unless the gifts are given from one spouse to the other. Property and assets obtained before marriage are considered separate property.

Equitable Distribution 

New Jersey is considered an “equitable distribution” state, which means that marital property is not automatically divided in half. Instead, it is divided based on what the judge believes to be fair and reasonable. The court’s task is to make sure both parties’ interests are equitably represented.

In regards to a marital home, equitable distribution does not necessarily mean that the spouse who financially paid for the home will receive the entire value of the home. For example, if one spouse stayed home without working to earn money in order to benefit the working spouse, the court will recognize this contribution when deciding how to divide the value of a marital home.

The Marital Home: A Central Asset in Divorce

When a married couple purchases a home together, usually this is their most valuable asset. A marital home also can symbolize the couple’s relationship. This is why making decisions regarding the marital home during a divorce can be quite emotional.

These are some of the various factors that the court will look at to decide who will receive the marital home when property is divided during a divorce.

  • Contribution to the marital property: How much each spouse has contributed monetarily to the purchase and renovation of the property will be considered.
  • Individual economic circumstances: The economic situation and needs of each spouse will be considered.
  • Child custody arrangements: When it comes to child custody, it may make logistical sense for one parent to keep the marital home despite not contributing as much financially to it. The best interests of the child are paramount. 
  • Duration of the marriage: The longer a couple has been married, the more leverage the spouse who did not contribute monetarily to the property will have in dividing the value of the marital home.
  • Age of the parties: The older a spouse who has not been working outside the home is, the less ability he or she will have to begin a new career and start earning income after the divorce. This will increase the chances of this spouse being given the marital home.
  • Health of the parties: A spouse with poor health may need the marital home more because he or she may not have much ability to work.

Legal Strategies in Retaining or Relinquishing the Marital Home

There are many methods that could be used to divide the value of the marital home between a divorcing couple. 

  • Negotiating an agreement before going to court. This is the least costly and time-consuming option. 
  • Selling the home and dividing the proceeds in accordance with the property division terms negotiated by the parties or decided by the court after going through the litigation process. The remaining debt owed on the marital home could be paid off first prior to distribution of the left over home equity. However, if the debt owed is more than the value of the home, it could create some issues that need to be sorted out in litigation or through negotiation. 
  • One party could also buy out the other party’s interest in the marital home if he or she wants to keep living there.. 

The Role of an Attorney in Property Division

Dealing with property division and other issues during a divorce can be overwhelming, especially since most everyday people do not have in-depth knowledge of the applicable laws and experience in the litigation process. This is why it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can guide one through the process. 

The attorney can help to craft an effective legal strategy to ensure the best results possible. This includes providing legal advice and explaining one’s rights and options regarding how to deal with the marital home. 

An attorney also will be able help with negotiations and drafting the legal language for any agreement between the spouses. If necessary, the attorney will represent a spouse in court and advocate for his or her interests. 

Special Considerations

There are several other things that may affect how equitable distribution is applied:

  • Prenuptial agreement: This is an agreement signed by both parties prior to marriage that predetermines issues of property division, which could include the marital home. In New Jersey, a prenuptial agreement is enforceable during divorce unless certain circumstances are shown to be true. This may include failure to provide full disclosure of finances or one party not being given the opportunity to consult with an attorney prior to the signing of the prenuptial agreement.
  • Real estate investments and vacation homes: These assets are subject to the same legal considerations as any other asset in an equitable distribution state. 
  • Tax implications: Transferring a marital home as a part of a divorce is tax-free. However, if one decides to later sell the home, the party may be subject to capital gains tax.

How an Attorney Can Help

If you are going through a divorce, an attorney can help you formulate a solid legal strategy to navigate legal and financial issues while protecting your interests. These issues include what will be done with your family home. An attorney can also represent you in negotiations regarding your marital home and other divorce-related issues. 
Instead of going it alone, consult with a knowledgeable attorney who can assist in navigating the complexities of property division. Our attorneys have decades of experience with family law issues, including divorce. Do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation to secure your financial future after your divorce.

A property being divided during divorce
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