In New Jersey the predominant responsibility of the family court system is to equitably distribute the assets that belong to the married parties. These assets can be distributed based upon mutual agreement, or the result of a family court trial.
Once the marital assets have been distributed and the marriage has been dissolved, returning to court to assess the validity of distributing later financial gains, by either party, is limited. However, in the event that later financial gains are reviewed by the court, “Family court judges must conduct a three-prong analysis in determining the equitable distribution of marital assets; the court must: (1) "decide what specific property of each spouse is eligible for distribution[;]" (2) "determine its value for purposes of such A-5774-13T4 7 distribution[;]" and (3) "decide how such allocation can most equitably be made." Rothman, 65 N.J. at 232. See Also: Thieme v. Aucoin-Thieme Superior Court Of New Jersey, Appellate Division Docket No. A-5774-13T4.
In addition to reviewing and implementing the relevant case law, the family court judge must also take into account the factors of New Jersey State Law 2A:34-23.1 Equitable distribution criteria. http://law.justia.com/codes/new-jersey/2013/title-2a/section-2a-34-23.1. While there are many factors that the court can take into consideration per this section of the law, it is within the purview of the family court judge to determine which factors are relevant to the particular set of facts placed before them, and apply those factors accordingly. Thieme v. Aucoin-Thieme Superior Court Of New Jersey, Appellate Division Docket No. A-5774-13T4.
In Thieme, the petitioner received a substantial deferred compensation pay out after the marriage was dissolved. In this particular case the judge determined that the relevant factors included the duration of the marriage, the previous agreement with regard to the distribution of marital assets, the parameters of the dissolution agreement, the defendant’s contribution to the materialization of the deferred compensation pay out, and the credibility of the witnesses. After carefully analyzing the above factors the judge distributed a small portion of the asset to the defendant. The appellate court determined that the trial judge had rendered a well analyzed legally sound decision and the distribution to the defendant was affirmed.
While this outcome is particular to the Theime case, the manner in which the decision was arrived at is common legal practice. Whether the asset being assessed is pre or post divorce decree, the family court is careful and diligent in it’s role as arbitrator and distributor, of all marital assets within the legal boundaries of equitable distribution. It is imperative that the court consider, and properly apply, all relevant case law and state law, to arrive at a legally sound decision.