Equitable distribution is the legal doctrine that governs how marital property is divided when a marriage is dissolved. Most states use equitable distribution, but nine states use community property.
The difference between community property and equitable distribution is that equitable distribution can only be awarded when a marriage is dissolved. No such requirement exists for community property.
What that means is outside of a matrimonial action that dissolves a marriage or rules that a marriage is void, there is no right to marital property.
Once a divorce or annulment is commenced, then all marital property is subject to the automatic restraining orders. If a spouse violates them, they can be held in contempt and the marital property either returned or offset by some other means.
Marital property subject to equitable distribution is any property that is acquired from the date of marriage up to the date the summons is filed. A small number of exceptions apply.
In dividing marital property, each asset must normally be valued, then the fourteen statutory factors are applied in distributing it in an equitable manner under the circumstances.