Under New York law, divorcing couples divide assets and property based on the principle of equitable distribution. Equitable distribution doesn’t mean that a couple divides their property in an even 50/50 split. On the contrary, a New York court will divide marital property according to several different factors. The goal of equitable distribution is to divide a couple’s property as fairly as possible.
Equitable distribution can become extremely complex. At CDH Law PLLC, our experienced Syracuse divorce attorneys have an in-depth understanding of the New York divorce laws that govern equitable distribution. We have extensive negotiation and litigation skills. When you work with CDH Law PLLC, you will rest easier knowing that we are advocating on your behalf. Contact our law firm as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation.
Separate Property Vs. Marital Property
In the New York divorce process, the first step is to categorize property as marital or separate. In divorces involving a significant amount of property, or in high net-worth divorces, the division of property can be extremely complicated. Spouses get to keep their separate property after their divorce while courts divide marital property through equitable distribution. Typically, any property acquired before the marriage, or after a spouse files for divorce or separation, is considered separate property.
During the divorce process, it is essential that the court considers your separate property as separate. Otherwise, it will be considered marital property and courts can divide the property up. There are some exceptions to the general rule, however. If you inherited property during the marriage and did not commingle that property, it will likely be considered separate property. Additionally, any property specified as separate property in a legally valid prenuptial agreement may also be considered separate property.
Hiring a Lawyer to Help Is Essential
An experienced lawyer will review all of your assets and help you determine which property is marital and which is separate. At CDH Law PLLC, we’ve had extensive experience representing clients in all different types of divorce cases, including highly complex divorces. We have a network of financial experts who can help ensure that you receive all of your separate property and a fair share of your marital property after your divorce. We will help you keep as much of your property after the divorce as possible.
The Equitable Distribution Process
Once the court has separated out your separate property from your marital property, it will begin dividing up the marital property. The marital property includes all assets acquired after the date of the marriage, and it includes debt as well and businesses owned by one or both spouses. Marital property includes all of the following in New York:
- The income that each spouse earned during the marriage
- Property purchased with either or both spouse’s incomes
- The property the couple purchased during the marriage, such as a car or a house
- The retirement benefits earned by each spouse during the marriage
- Any interest or appreciation on the marital property during the marriage
When dividing and distributing marital property, courts will consider multiple factors related to the fairness of the distribution. As mentioned above, New York family courts will not simply divide the marital assets in half as is the law in some other states. Instead, judges consider the following factors during the equitable distribution process:
- The length of the couple’s marriage
- Each spouse’s separate property and income
- Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage before the divorce
- The physical health of each spouse
- The age of each spouse
- The ability of each spouse to make a future income based on skills and education
- Which spouse has custody of the children
- Which spouse will protect the best interests of the children
- The tax obligations of each spouse
- The need for the custodial parent to stay in the marital residence
- Spousal support that may have been awarded to one spouse
- Whether or not a marital property includes interest in a business or profession
- The debt obligations of each spouse
- Any financial issues that happened before the divorce, such as squandering money
Keep in mind that New York courts hold a broad view of what it means to contribute to the marriage. For example, if one spouse worked to put the other spouse through medical school and then stayed home to raise children, the court will consider that spouse’s contribution to the overall marriage. Trying to put a number value of intangible contributions to a marriage can be challenging, but at CDH Law PLLC, we know how to advocate for our clients to help them recover a fair amount of marital property that reflects how much they contributed to the marriage.
Equitable Distribution When a Business Is Involved
When one or both spouses owned a business, the divorce process can become even more challenging. New York courts will usually give the business or practice to the spouse who currently runs the business. In exchange, they will usually give the other spouse additional property to offset the difference of the value of the business.
Domestic Violence Is a Factor to Consider for Equitable Distribution
The New York legislature has recently amended its Domestic Relations Law. Now, domestic violence is a factor for judges to consider when making equitable distribution decisions. Specifically, judges will consider whether either party has committed one or more acts of domestic violence. Judges can consider the extent, nature, duration, and impact of domestic violence.
This amendment indicates a significant departure from the previous equitable distribution laws, which were essentially neutral, as long as neither party engaged in “egregious” misconduct. This change in the law is likely to have a significant impact on practitioners, litigants, and courts.
Contact Our Experienced Syracuse Equitable Distribution Lawyers
As you can see, the equitable distribution process can quickly become complicated. The sooner you speak to a Syracuse divorce lawyer, the better. At CDH Law PLLC, we have extensive experience advocating for clients during the equitable distribution process. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.