Getting divorced is one of the most emotionally taxing and financially challenging decisions you can make. After spending decades building a life with someone, property division can be among the most contentious aspects of the process. If you cannot settle with your ex-spouse who gets what, a judge will decide, and that does not necessarily mean a 50-50 split.
New York is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing marital property – assets acquired during the marriage. Think real estate, vehicles, furniture and artwork along with bank accounts, stocks, retirement savings and pensions. Usually it does not include gifts or inheritances one spouse receives while married. Either way, the court has ample discretion when distributing marital property.
What the court will consider
Equitable does not always mean equal. Judges can award one spouse a greater share of marital property based on each spouse’s role and contributions to the marriage. That is where the nuance comes in.
The law has more than a dozen factors for a judge to consider when distributing property. Among them are:
- Length of the marriage, age and health of both spouses
- The spouse with custody of minor children and whether they still need the marital house
- Whether the spouses can divide liquidated real estate in cash or only after a sale
- Child support or alimony
- Each spouse’s potential earnings or financial conditions
- Loss of health insurance benefits
Another critical circumstance when a marriage ends is valuing each spouse’s professional growth or caretaking. A breadwinner can increase his or her wages by getting an advanced degree or certification. What is that worth? And how about a stay-at-home mom? Minding the children instead of paying for daycare might be considered a monetary contribution.
Navigating your case
Divorce will affect your financial future. Be smart in picking your battles during the process. Safeguarding your property is important to ensure you receive a fair share proportionate with the effort you put into the marriage. An experienced attorney can review your case, strategize and help you start over.