Equitable Distribution

New York Lawyer Fights for Fair Division of Marital Property

Syracuse divorce attorney handles negotiations and court proceedings

Even in divorce proceedings that are relatively amicable, conflicts can arise over the division of marital assets and debts. Disputes over cash, real estate, family vehicles and investment accounts can slow down the marriage dissolution process and affect each spouse’s ability to make a new start on a strong financial foundation. Bombardo Law Office, P.C. in Syracuse helps divorcing clients in Central New York and throughout New York State secure an appropriate share of marital property through a settlement or a judge’s decision under the state’s equitable distribution law.

New York State’s equitable distribution standard

Should a couple not be able to divide marital assets and debts on their own, New York judges make a decision based on the state’s equitable distribution law. This means that the order reflects what the judge thinks is fair, but the value of property given to each spouse does not have to be equal, although almost all divorces will result in equal division of marital assets. My firm can examine your situation and help you understand what items will be included in the distribution process and what assets are considered separate property. If you have a prenuptial agreement, I will also advise you as to whether it will be enforced by the court and, if so, what effect that will have on the result.

Factors the court considers when making an equitable distribution decision

While divorce courts allow looking at all circumstances surrounding the marriage and the pending divorce, there are certain considerations that are more important than others. Key elements of this analysis can include:

  • Changes in a spouses’ 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. This way, sacrifices that one party made for the family’s benefit can be evaluated. The court will take these sacrifices into account when making an equitable distribution decision.
  • Duration of the marriage and each spouse’s age and health — Longer marriages where the spouses’ finances have been combined for many years generally warrant a near equal split of the marital property. However, the age and health of you and your spouse are also taken into account. These factors play a huge part in an ex-spouse’s ability to support themselves after the divorce.
  • The needs of parents under the custody arrangement — If there are children from the marriage, the custodial parent will often retain the assets and property necessary to further the best interests of the children. This typically includes the marital home and the furniture in it. However, divorce courts in New York will also consider each spouse’s financial ability to make mortgage payments and maintain the property. When a custodial parent likely cannot cover the costs associated with the family home, there might be other solutions that work to everyone’s benefit.  
  • Loss of inheritance or pension rights — If one member of a married couple dies, then the surviving spouse has the right to inherit a share of their deceased spouse’s estate. This is true even if the decedent wrote their spouse out of their will. During equitable distribution reviews, divorce courts take into account the amount of the forced inheritance that is being lost. This provides a more accurate perspective on the divorce’s financial impact.
  • Maintenance awards — Divorce courts will take into consideration any maintenance awards that are issued as part of the divorce, whether for spousal support (alimony) or the needs of a child. Any amount that one party receives in maintenance can lead to a corresponding reduction that they are given through the equitable distribution process.
  • Contributions to property held by the other spouse — A key aspect of the equitable distribution principle is that courts can look to see whether the non-title-holding spouse contributed to the attainment of a particular asset. 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 earned outside the home 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 assets during the marriage. The classic example of this is extravagant spending on a paramour. However, it can also include many other circumstances, such as irrational business expenses or investments made without their spouse’s consent.

The distribution of marital property during a divorce proceeding is one of the trickier aspects of a divorce. Courts have great latitude in determining what is fair and what is not. Often, the parties’ familiarity with the specific circumstances favors a property distribution settlement. That is where a seasoned divorce attorney can help.

Contact a knowledgeable Syracuse lawyer regarding your equitable distribution issues

At Bombardo Law Office, P.C. in Syracuse, my firm assists Central New York clients with equitable distribution matters and other aspects of the divorce process. To schedule a free legal consultation, call 315-800-4002 or contact me online.

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