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What is Equitable Distribution in Divorce on Long Island, NY?

On Long Island, when a couple decides to divorce, there is inevitably property that must be divided so that each spouse can have some property each spouse goes their separate way. Nassau and Suffolk Counties are governed by New York state law which provides for “Equitable Distribution” of both assets and debts. This means that both assets and debts can be split between the parties in a manner that is determined by the court to be most fair and equitable. In addition to assets like bank accounts, houses, cars, etc., debts such as mortgages, personal loans, credit card debt, student loan debt, tax liabilities, and some business loans may be divided in equitable distribution.

Does this Mean Property is Split Equally During a Divorce on Long Island?

This does not always mean that the debts will be split in half, but instead means that the court will determine what manner of splitting is the most fair and even.

How Do Long Island Courts Decide Who Gets What?

The court strives for a fair and equitable outcome when dividing property in a divorce, and so it looks to several factors in order to make the determination of how the marital debts will be split. The nature of the debt, who incurred the debt, for what reason the debt was incurred, and to whom the debt is owed, are all of importance in determining how to divide them.

Courts consider each spouse’s income, earning power, likelihood of future financial success or difficulty, the duration the marriage, the financial needs of the parent who will be primarily caring for the marital children, any awards of spousal support, any loss of pension or health insurance that a spouse will lose due to the divorce, contributions to the marital property either with pre-marital money or as a homemaker, and any other factors that the court finds relevant.

What is Marital Property?

It is important to remember that equitable distribution only applies to marital property. Marital property is any property that is acquired during the marriage that was not given to one spouse as a gift or inheritance. Only marital property can be divided by the court.

Separate property, on the other hand, is property owned by one spouse prior to the marriage, or property acquired by one spouse by gift or inheritance during the marriage. However, keep in mind that a spouse may be entitled to a portion of the value of his or her spouse’s separate property if he or she contributed to the increase in value. Furthermore, any property referenced in a pre- or post-nuptial agreement as separate property will be treated as separate property by a Nassau County or Suffolk County court.

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.

Will a Spouse’s Equitable Share be Effected by Adultery?

It may also come as a surprise that a wrongdoing such as adultery may have only a very slight impact, if any, on the outcome of the divorce. The assignment of blame does not necessarily change the equitable distribution awards or the apportionment of marital assets. The judge will still focus on fairly splitting the assets and what type of custody or visitation with the children is in the best interests of the children and family as a whole. Many factors are considered by the judge in order to determine the appropriate distribution of assets and custody of children. To the dismay of the betrayed spouse, evidence or an accusation of adultery may have little effect on this calculation.

How Do I Ensure My Divorce Distribution is Equitable?

An experienced Long Island divorce lawyer can assist you in assessing 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 Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. provides free consultations to discuss your options. Call us at 631-923-1910 to schedule yours.

For more information about Property Division in your divorce, visit our Complete Guide to Dividing Property in Divorce.

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