Civility and honesty are key when dividing property in divorce

Dividing property can be one of the most contentious, time-consuming aspects of a divorce. Couples can battle over everything from what to do with the house to who gets the sofa.

Before you begin the process, it's helpful to understand a couple of things about the law. First, it's essential to know the difference between separate and marital property. Typically, spouses get to keep their separate property. That includes assets they owned before the marriage as well as gifts and inheritances they received during the marriage.

It's the marital property that couples need to determine how to divide. That includes most of the assets that either or both spouses earned or purchased during the marriage. New Jersey is an equitable distribution state. That means if a court gets involved, marital property doesn't have to be divided 50-50, but in a fair and equitable manner.

It's usually faster, easier and less expensive when couples can work out their property division on their own, with the guidance of their attorneys, rather than leaving it to a judge. This requires maintaining some civility that soon-to-be exes may not feel towards one another.

It helps to be organized. Inventory all of your marital property. Don't try to hide anything -- whether it's a bank account or a vase. That's only going to create distrust and potentially cause you problems down the road.

Dividing up home furnishings can be a lot easier than dividing monetary assets and expensive property like homes, cars and boats. Your family law attorney can provide valuable guidance to help make the process as smooth and fair as possible and increase your chances of walking away with a fair property settlement.

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