On September 27, 2013, in a landmark case for the state, Garden State Equality v. Dow, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry. While Governor Chris Christie immediately stated that his administration would be appealing the ruling, he eventually withdrew his appeal, and the first same-sex marriages in the state were performed just after midnight on October 21, 2013. Prior to this date, same-sex couples were only allowed to enter into civil unions in the state, which were not recognized by the federal government.
Same-sex couples in New Jersey now have the same rights as opposite-sex couples. These rights are most frequently recognized during the divorce process; namely with regards to the equitable distribution of assets acquired during the marriage and alimony that may be paid to the dependent spouse. Both of these concepts are dealt with by the court and determined through application of a variety of factors. One of the most important factors at issue with same-sex divorces is the length of the marriage. Obviously, same-sex marriages are likely to be shorter in duration than heterosexual marriages simply because same-sex couples were not legally allowed to marry until almost two years ago, and were only permitted to enter into civil unions since 2007 when The Civil Union Act was signed into law by then-Governor Jon Corzine.
However, because same-sex marriage is a relatively new concept in New Jersey, there have been significantly fewer same-sex divorces in the state and, therefore, case law addressing the award of alimony and equitable distribution in same-sex divorces are in infancy and not yet developed.