Written by: Marissa A. Del Mauro, Esq.
Recent news outlets have reported that, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Bezos have decided to file for divorce after 25 years of marriage. It has been reported that the divorce will be filed in Washington State, which is a community property state. This leaves the Bezos’ estate, worth an estimated $137 billion at issue. The following is an analysis of the Bezos divorce as if it were filed here in the state of New Jersey, an equitable distribution state.
Community Property State vs. Equitable Distribution State
In a community property state, the spouses are deemed to equally own all income and assets earned or acquired during the marriage. This includes any and all property that was acquired during the marriage with “community” money is deemed to be owned equally by both parties, regardless of who purchased it. This equal ownership also applies to debts incurred during the marriage, regardless of which spouse incurred the debt.
By contrast, in an equitable distribution state such as New Jersey, any and all property acquired and any and all debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage is subject to distribution between them, but not necessarily at an equal 50-50 split. In New Jersey, it is important to remember that “equitable” does not mean equal.
How the Court Determines How the Property will be Distributed
In New Jersey, the Court will undergo a three-step process to determine how property will be distributed between the spouses:
- Determine what property is subject to equitable distribution;
- Value the property; and
- Decide how that property will be divided.
Factors That Courts Use to Determine Equitable Distribution
Once the Court has determined what property is subject to equitable distribution and has valued the property, the Court will undergo an analyses under the New Jersey Equitable Distribution statute as to each piece of property to determine how it will be divided. Equitable distribution in New Jersey is codified under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(h) and is set forth below:
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
- The income or property brought to the marriage by each party;
- The standard of living during the marriage;
- Any written agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning an arrangement of property division;
- The economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property becomes effective;
- The income and earning capacity of each party, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage;
- The contribution by each party to the education, training or earning power of the other;
- The contribution of each party to the acquisition, dissipation, preservation, depreciation or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property, as well as the contribution of a party as a homemaker;
- The tax consequences of the proposed distribution to each party;
- The present value of the property;
- The need of a parent who has physical custody of a child to own or occupy the marital residence and to use or own the household effects;
- The debts and liabilities of the parties;
- The need for creation, now or in the future, of a trust fund to secure reasonably foreseeable medical or educational costs for a spouse or children;
- The extent to which a party deferred achieving their career goals; and
- Any other factor which the court may deem relevant.
Having an experienced matrimonial attorney to carefully identify, analyze and advocate for equitable distribution of marital assets is integral to ensuring you have the financial security you seek and need.
Somerville Divorce Law Firm at Lyons & Associates Assist Clients With High Asset Divorces
For more information regarding high asset divorces and equitable distribution contact the Law Office of Lyons & Associates. At Lyons & Associates, we represent men and women throughout New Jersey who have unresolved family law matters. We place a premium on personalized service and attention. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail, view our website at www.lyonspc.com, or call our office at 908-575-9777.