Most divorces involve property division, referred to in New York as “equitable distribution.” I draw family and commercial law experience to guide my clients through their property settlement issues.
It’s a three step process:
First, we work together to identify the marital and separate property you and your spouse own. The Courts assume all property acquired during the marriage is marital, with certain exceptions. It’s critical to have a good understanding of whether an asset is considered marital or separate property, because only marital property is divided.
Next, we value the property. This can be easy if it’s a bank account, but it can be quite complex if it’s a small business, a pension or a valuable piece or art.
Finally, we develop proposals and arguments for how the marital property should be divided.
The property settlement process often ignites other divorce-related emotions and can result in prolonged personal vendettas. I offer counsel that helps clients keep these matters in perspective. I encourage my clients to “pick their battles” and encourage them to take a pragmatic approach.
New York State Courts and Equitable Distribution
New York State law dictates that the court will divide property in divorces in a manner that is equitable to both parties. However, this does not necessarily mean that property will be divided equally.
The courts will consider several factors when making their decision:
- Length of marriage
- Circumstances of divorce
- Economic conditions of each spouse
- Children involved and custodial settlements
- Physical and mental health of each spouse
- The contribution the spouse made to the creation of the property.
We will work together to build a case that shows an honest and accurate representation of your financial and divorce circumstances. I will work with you to protect your property rights and reach a fair settlement or court award.
Extensive Assets in Modern Divorce
Modern divorces often involve complex and detailed property settlement issues. Parties often possess extensive joint and personal assets that need to be accounted for and assigned values for the court.
These assets are not limited to material items and often involve many different levels of financial ownership:
- Business valuations
- Pension and retirement funds
- Employee benefits
- Insurance policies
- Stocks and bonds
- Intellectual property rights
- Money market accounts
- Estates and trusts
- Enhanced earning capacity (such as professional degrees and licensing) earned by either spouse during the marriage
It is important to provide the courts with an honest and thorough representation of each party’s property ownership. The courts look at the totality of the situation to make their decision on equitable division.
I have written a “things to bring to your attorney to divide property” guide to give you a more comprehensive view of how to prepare and what to expect in this process.