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How do courts equitably divide marital property in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Aug 23, 2021 | Property Division

The state of New York uses equitable distribution to divide a divorcing couple’s assets during a divorce. In other words, courts will evaluate how to divide the marital property fairly and equitably between the soon to be ex-spouses. However, it is important to remember that equitable does not necessarily mean that the property will be split evenly between the two parties. Courts will need to determine the value of all marital property before making any property division determinations.

What is marital property?

Generally, any property acquired during the marriage or with marital funds will be considered marital property when the couple divorces. Real estate, furniture, income, vehicles, and investment and retirement accounts are all common examples of marital property.

Separate property is property that belongs solely to one spouse and will not be divided in the divorce. Gifts, inheritances, or personal injury lawsuit proceeds given only to one spouse, or any assets owned by one person prior to the marriage are considered separate property. Separate property can also become marital property by using commingled funds.

Factors used to determine equitable distribution

Courts will consider several factors when deciding how to fairly divide the marital property between the two parties. Some factors may include:

  • Each spouse’s age, health, financial status, and ability to earn income.
  • The value of separate property belonging to each spouse.
  • The length of the marriage.
  • The liquidity of each asset.
  • The existence of a prenuptial agreement.
  • Spousal support owed.
  • Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage (e.g., one spouse paying for the other’s education)

Valuation of marital property

Before dividing the marital property, the court will need to determine the value of the marital property. Valuing liquid marital assets (e.g., bank accounts) is usually straightforward, but valuing real estate and other assets may require a formal appraisal to determine the fair market value of the property.

The property division process can be complex in a high asset divorce. A family law attorney specializing in these matters can help make the process easier, while ensuring you get what is rightfully yours in the divorce.