One of the most important aspects of ending a marriage is distributing the property between spouses. New York is an equitable distribution state, but that doesn’t mean property shared during a marriage is distributed equally (though it might be). According to Cornell University Law School, equitable distribution is the legal principle by which assets and earnings acquired during marriage are divided equitably (fairly) at divorce. It takes into consideration what each spouse contributed to the marriage and what each will need as he or she begins a new life.
A few things to know about equitable distribution in New York:
- If divorcing spouses agree on a split of their assets, equitable distribution laws will not apply
- A spouse’s behavior during the marriage usually has no bearing on the division of property because of New York’s no-fault divorce laws
- The value of property is determined using fair market valuation
When determining equitable distribution, the court takes into account:
- Duration of the marriage
- Each spouse’s age and health
- Probable future financial circumstances and earning potential of each spouse
- Each spouse’s income and property owned at the time of marriage and at the time divorce papers were filed
- Needs of the custodial parent
- Pension, health insurance, and inheritance rights either spouse will lose because of the divorce
- Spousal maintenance (alimony)
- Each spouse’s contribution of labor, money, or efforts as a spouse, parent, wage earner, or homemaker, including contributions to the other spouse’s earning potential (by, for example, working to put the other spouse through school)
- Liquidity of marital property
- Tax consequences of the divorce
- Whether one or both spouses owns a business
- Whether marital assets were wastefully dissipated
- Whether property was transferred or encumbered without fair consideration
- Other factor the court expressly finds to be a just and proper consideration
Only marital property, which includes property acquired during the marriage by both or either spouse, is divided equitably. Property owned separately is not part of the equal distribution and ownership is maintained by whichever spouse was the original owner. Separate property might include property owned prior to the marriage, property received individually as a gift or inheritance, compensation for personal injury, property listed as separate in a prenuptial agreement, or property acquired from the proceeds of separate property.
Dividing property is not only complex, it can be contentious. It’s one of the primary reasons divorcing couples are unable to come to terms without court interference. If you are concerned about protecting your property during a divorce or you have questions about the equitable distribution of property, we can help. Contact the Law Offices of Elan Wurtzel by calling 516.822.7866.