What is Equitable Distribution in a Long Island Divorce?
The division of marital property is perhaps the largest issue in most Long Island divorces. Courts on Long Island are governed by the laws of the State of New York, which provides guidelines for how marital property is to be divided during the divorce proceedings. These rules are known as Equitable Distribution.
Marital Property Is NOT Always Split 50/50
Simply put, New York courts use the equitable distribution doctrine in an attempt to divide marital property fairly and equitably. This does not always mean that each party receives 50 percent of the marital assets. Instead, the courts use many factors in order to determine the most fair and reasonable distribution of the marital property.
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What is Marital Property & How Do I Get My Fair Share?
Generally speaking, property acquired during the marriage is considered to be marital property. Marital property can include, but is not limited to:
- bank accounts
- retirement accounts (such as pensions & 401-Ks)
- notes and mortgages held
- stocks and stock options
- broker’s accounts
- business interests
- accounts receivable
- interest in trusts
- real property
- household furnishings
- antiques & collectibles
- automobiles, motorcycles, boats, etc.
- disability pensions
- judgments held
- causes of action at law
- patents and trademarks owned
In order to determine how to calculate the distribution of property, Judges on Long Island consider factors such as:
- the amount and sources of income at the time of divorce filing;
- the property of each spouse at the time of divorce filing;
- any pre-nuptial agreements;
- duration of the marriage;
- the age and health of each spouse;
- who will be the custodial parent;
- any alimony award;
- the potential financial needs of each spouse;
- the potential future earnings of each spouse; and
- the amounts necessary for support, maintenance, education, and general welfare of the child or children
How Do Long Island Courts Decide Who Gets What?
The above is not an exhaustive list of factors, and every set of circumstances surrounding a divorce may vary. However, Long Island courts almost always take into account the needs and future needs of each party to the divorce, including current and future income and expenses. Earning potential of the spouses is given due consideration as well.
What Is Separate Property & Can I Keep My Own ‘Stuff’?
Certain property may be considered “separate” property, and will not be subject to equitable distribution. For example, property that was acquired prior to the marriage, property acquired by inheritance, compensation for personal injury of one spouse, and, certain gifts given to one spouse may not be included in the equitable distribution of a marital estate. Furthermore, any property specifically agreed to be outside of the marital estate by a pre- or post-nuptial agreement will not be considered marital property for purposes of equitable distribution. However, exceptions may exist if a spouse can show that he or she contributed toward the appreciation of any of these “separate” assets.
What If My Spouse Cheated?
Generally speaking, Long Island courts consider the totality of the circumstances in determining the distribution of the marital estate. The courts generally do not consider marital misconduct or fault, and typically do not punish or reward either party, so if you thought you would get more of the assets of the marriage because your spouse was unfaithful, that’s usually not the case. However, if a party has acted in a way to intentionally destroy or depreciate the marital property in an attempt to deprive the other party of some benefit, this will be viewed unfavorably by the Court and will be given consideration when determining the apportionment of property.
How Do the Debts of One or Both Spouses Come Into Play?
Marital debts are often distributed in the same manner as marital assets. However, the distribution of the debts may be different in cases where one spouse has a significantly greater ability to pay, or one spouse is solely responsible for incurring the debt obligation, and incurred the debt for his or her exclusive benefit. In some instances, a debt is incurred by one party and only for the benefit of that party. Generally, any debts incurred during the marriage are considered marital debts, and are therefore subject to equitable distribution. The party who wishes to share the debt with his former spouse has the burden of proof as to why the debt was incurred and whether it was for the benefit of both parties.
How To Ensure Your Divorce Distribution is Equitable
As experienced Long Island Divorce attorneys, we can assist you in determining your property rights and negotiating for your best interests during your divorce. We will assess your rights and responsibilities in your divorce, and can help to ensure that you receive everything you are entitled to under New York State law. The Office of Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., P.C. provides free consultations to discuss your options. Contact our friendly Client Services Director at 631-923-1910 to schedule yours.
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