A common question couples may have before initiating a divorce is how the court divides property. Aside from child custody and visitation issues, the division of property may lead to heated debate.
New York is a state that does not divide marital holdings equally. It is an equitable division state, meaning the judge may decide what is fair. What does this mean for couples? Learn the basics of equitable division before moving forward with negotiations.
What property does equitable distribution affect?
Under state law, all property owned or leased by a couple during the course of their marriage is subject to dividing. Exceptions exist for those items each spouse owned before getting married or property inherited after a family death. Property includes things such as:
- Bank accounts
- Homes, investment property and vacant lots
- Retirement accounts
- Investment accounts
It is important to note that the court also expects the couple to divide the debt equitably.
How does a judge decide a fair split?
An equitable division of property means a court looks at many factors before settling on who gets what. One of the most common scenarios judges must consider involves a marriage with a spouse who stays home to care for children. This spouse has no independent income as of the date of separation. Splitting property evenly may slight the spouse who sacrificed a career to raise children. The judge must decide the contribution of the two spouses, financially and emotionally, to the marriage. In doing this, the judge will come up with a fair divide.
Equitable division is particularly beneficial when one spouse does not have a strong financial leg to stand on after divorce. The intent is a fair split, not necessarily an equal one.