Equitable Distribution

It has become common knowledge that, if you and your spouse divorce, then the property that you have accumulated together will get divided. However, different states have come up with different answers for what gets divided, and how to do the dividing. When it comes to how the property gets divided, New York has adopted the method of equitable distribution.

Equitable Distribution

While the divorce courts in some states operate strongly under the presumption that marital property will be divided equally between the two spouses, New York uses a different approach. Here, courts follow the process of equitable distribution. This means that divorce courts look to numerous different factors and circumstances to try to divide the property fairly, or equitably, between divorcing spouses. While this often results in a division that is close to 50/50, it does not necessarily mean that this has to be the case, and is often considered a mere coincidence when it does happen.

Factors that a Court Considers for Equitable Distribution

While divorce courts are allowed to look at all of the circumstances surrounding the marriage and the pending divorce, there are certain considerations that are more important than others.


  • Changes in a spouse’s assets over the course of the marriage


Divorce courts take two snapshots of both spouses’ assets and incomes: One from when the marriage began, and one from when the divorce proceeding began. These snapshots show a trend in how both you and your spouse have fared over the course of the marriage and often show who made sacrifices for the benefit of the family. The court will take these sacrifices into account when making an equitable distribution.


  • Duration of the marriage and each spouse’s age and health


Longer marriages have been seen by divorce courts as warranting a nearly equal split of the marital property. However, the age and health of you and your spouse will also be taken into account, because they play a huge part in an ability to be self-supporting after the divorce.


  • The needs of the parent given custody of any children


If there are children from the marriage, the custodial parent will often be given the assets and property necessary to further the best interests of the children, like the marital home and the furniture in it. However, divorce courts in New York will also take into consideration the ability of both parents to financially keep the marital home, or if there are other, suitable substitutes that can work better. Additionally, courts have paid attention to the ability of the custodial parent in maintaining the home, as well.


  • Loss of inheritance or pension rights


If a spouse dies while married, then the surviving spouse has the right to take a forced share from the deceased spouse, even if the deceased spouse wrote him or her out of the will. Divorce courts take this into account when they make the equitable distribution of the marital property, to better protect the spouse that would have taken from the estate.


  • Maintenance awards


Divorce courts will take into consideration any maintenance awards – whether spousal or child maintenance – that one spouse earns, and weigh it against the amount that the spouse will receive through the equitable distribution process.


  • Contributions to property held by the other spouse


One of the chief policies behind the equitable distribution method of splitting marital property, courts will look to see whether the non-title-holding spouse contributed to the attainment of the property. For example, if one spouse stays at home to care for the family’s children, and the other spouse buys an expensive sports car with money made during the marriage, courts may split the value of the car between the two because the spouse caring for the children indirectly contributed to the purchase.


  • Wasteful spending of marital property


Courts will also take into account whether a spouse wastefully spent marital property during the marriage. The classic example of this is extravagant spending on a paramour during the marriage, but it can also include many other circumstances, as well, like irrational business expenses or investments.

Contact a Syracuse Family Law and Divorce Attorney

The distribution of marital property during a divorce proceeding is one of the trickier aspects of a divorce. Courts have been given great latitude in determining what is fair and what is not, and their lack of familiarity with your family can lead to results that do not seem right. That is where a divorce attorney can help. Contact the Bombardo Law Office P.C. online or at (315) 488-5544.

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