Equitable Distribution in New York
How Marital Property Is Divided in a New York Divorce
When it comes to division of marital property, New York is an equitable distribution state as opposed to a community property state or a common law state. This refers to the allocation of marital property and separate property as a result of a divorce or legal separation. New York is also an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing marital debt.
As an equitable distribution state, marital property is not automatically split equally (50/50) in New York. Rather, equitable distribution law demands consideration of a variety of personal and financial factors before the marital property will be distributed between spouses.
What Is Equitable Distribution of Marital Property?
Divorcing couples often ask questions like “What am I entitled to in a divorce?" and “What does ‘equitable distribution’ mean?”
So what is considered marital property in New York? In New York, “marital property" is any property acquired during the marriage. If divorcing spouses cannot agree on their property distribution, then a judge will divide it for them.
Our Long Island equitable distribution lawyers will work tirelessly to help you secure a fair divorce settlement, so contact us to learn more.
The court must consider the following factors before dispensing marital property:
- The length of the marriage
- The age and health of each party
- The contributions of each spouse to the marital partnership
- Direct or indirect contributions of one spouse to the career of the other
- The earning power of each spouse
- The separate property of each spouse
- Any transfer of assets or encumbrance made in contemplation of a divorce action
- The probable future financial circumstances of each party
- The need of a custodial parent to occupy or own the marital residence
- If (and in what amount) spousal support has been awarded
- Any wasteful dissipation of assets by either spouse
Separate Property vs. Marital Property in New York
Separate property includes all possessions and property acquired before the marriage, property inherited or given as a gift by a third party, and any compensation for personal injuries. Separate property is not subject to equitable distribution laws. This means that any separate property a spouse has will remain in his / her possession.
So what is considered marital property in New York? "Marital property" includes any property acquired during the marriage with marital funds. No matter which spouse earned it or whose name appears on the title, it will be considered joint property, and each spouse will have a claim to part of it in a divorce. In the state of New York, property will be divided in a manner deemed fair, but not necessarily equal.
Note that separate property can turn into marital property if it was maintained through the use of marital funds, or if it increased in value due to the contributions of both spouses.
Is New York a Community Property State?
New York is not a community property or "50/50" state. New York is an equitable distribution state for property and debt.
Under NY divorce law for property distribution, the court will decide how to divide property and marital debt using the state’s equitable distribution laws. Each spouse will keep their own separate property and will be awarded a certain percentage of the total value of the marital property.
Judges will consider all financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage when determining how to fairly divide property. Couples must remember that debt and liabilities will be divided as well, and each spouse will be responsible for paying back a portion of their marital debt.
How Is Debt Divided in a New York Divorce?
While preparing for a divorce, most people think about how the assets will be divided. Can I keep the house? Am I entitled to share in the pension? These are common questions we hear from our clients. Many people don't realize that the debts accumulated during a marriage, just like the assets, also have to be distributed.
Debts linked to a specific asset (such as the mortgage on a house or a loan for the purchase of a new car) often stay with the asset. Whoever keeps the asset will typically be responsible for the debt. But other "unassociated" or unsecured debts, such as credit card debts, must also be apportioned between the parties and, hopefully, discharged as part of the divorce agreement or decree.
Typically, debts accumulated during the marriage by one or both of the spouse are deemed marital debts and the equal obligation of the parties. There is room for deviation, however, if one party incurs debt of a nature with which it would be unfair to burden the other party (secret purchases during extramarital activities are a textbook example). These debts likely become the sole obligation of the "guilty" party.
How do you protect yourself when it comes to debt allocation in a divorce?
Documentation. Try and gather and retain as much documentary evidence as possible regarding debts incurred during the marriage. This applies whether you claim a debt to be marital, or if you intend to argue that you should not be held responsible for the debts incurred by your spouse.
Our Great Neck Firm Can Help Secure a Fair Divorce Settlement
Unfortunately, equitable distribution in divorce doesn’t always result in an equal or fair division of property. In New York, family law judges are not required to split your assets 50/50, or “down the middle,” which is why it would be wise to secure the help of a seasoned divorce lawyer in Long Island.
Our attorneys excel in divorce law and work closely with our clients to obtain successful results. We can help you secure an advantageous division of financial assets and property by negotiating on your behalf. At Wisselman, Harounian & Associates, we have more than 150 years of experience. We have the knowledge, skills, and resources you want on your side.
Contact our law firm to request your free consultation with a Long Island divorce attorney!
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