Property division is a key area of disagreement in a New York divorce. Many might not be completely aware of the laws and terminology that is used as a case moves forward. Equitable distribution is the law in the state, but many people can misinterpret that to mean that the marital property is divided equally and split in half. That is not the case. Equitable means “fair.” It is up to the court to decide on dividing the property based on that. It is imperative to understand what the court will consider when it makes its determination.
Factors the court uses to come to what it considers a fair outcome
People will enter a marriage with a certain amount of property and income. That can change by the time they start the divorce proceeding. The court will assess the income and property from both before and after the marriage. The duration of the marriage is also crucial as is the health and age of the parties. If it was a longer marriage and is a so-called “gray” divorce with people over the age of 50, the property analysis will likely differ than if it was a short-term marriage with people who are in their 30s. While child custody is generally a separate issue, it can be considered with property division if the custodial parent is going to live in the marital residence and keep household items.
Since people often have a right to a portion of the other party’s pension or retirement assets, this will be factored in when the marriage is dissolved and property is shared. The same is true for healthcare coverage. When marital property was acquired, there will likely have been shared costs, but one spouse may have paid more than the other based on their income and assets. If the other spouse was a stay at home parent, the contributions will be scrutinized to try and forge a reasonable division. The property can be liquid (like cash) or non-liquid (like real estate). Its character is important in the division.
Property division is complex and people should be prepared
The court can look at essentially any factor it deems critical when making a property determination based on equitable distribution. In a best-case scenario, the parties are flexible and willing to negotiate to reach a conclusion and move forward. Unfortunately, some situations are acrimonious and people cannot reach a consensus. Regardless, with property division and splitting marital assets, it is wise to be protected with experienced assistance to achieve a positive resolution whether that is in a negotiated settlement or by going to court.