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Married couples acquire assets and property for their joint use. If the couple later divorces, the decision must be made as to which spouse gets what property. If the spouses cannot agree on who gets what, a family law court must make the decision for each spouse. Let’s briefly review the method that New Jersey courts use to determine who gets what in a divorce.

Courts in the Garden State use the principle of equitable division when they are tasked with dividing a couple’s property. This means that they will make the division on the basis of what is fair to each spouse. How do judges decide what is fair to each spouse? Judges will take into consideration a number of factors in making the decision. This means that a division of assets in New Jersey will always be very context-specific.

Some of the factors considered include the length of the marriage; the financial needs of each spouse, both now and in the future; how child custody is divided between the spouses; the amount contributed by each spouse to the assets; how much child-rearing and unpaid housework each spouse contributed; the age, health and special needs of each spouse; the total value of the separate property each spouse brought to the marriage; any child support or alimony obligations from prior marriages for each spouse; and any adverse acts committed by each spouse, such as extramarital affairs or domestic violence.

Let’s say that that Chris and Pat are divorcing. If Pat has custody of the children and did much of the child-rearing during the marriage, then Pat may be awarded a larger share of the assets to compensate for past work and to facilitate future work in raising them. This is how fairness considerations could determine how a division of assets will happen.