People sometimes assume that “equitable distribution” automatically means a 50/50 division of assets. However, a court cannot simply view a list of assets and make the automatic determination that the list should be divided 50/50 between the parties. The guiding case in New Jersey to help determine who gets what or how much in equitable distribution is Painter v. Painter, 65 NJ 196 (1974). Another frequent question is what happens to assets that one party brought in to a marriage? Also, what happens to assets gifted to one party during the marriage by family members or third parties other than their spouse?
Recently, the Appellate Division issued an unpublished decision which addressed equitable distribution of a marital home and vacation home to parties who had been married twenty years. In the matter of Miller v. Miller, A-2506-07T1, Decided April 28, 2009, defendant-husband appealed from a Judgment of Divorce where the trial judge granted the plaintiff-wife an interest in both the marital home and vacation home that defendant alleged was not subject to equitable distribution as it was alleged to be an immune asset owned by him prior to the marriage.