If you are preparing to initiate divorce proceedings, or have just commenced the process of legally brining your marriage to an end, you likely have an array of questions. For example, you may wonder whether you can sell items of personal property to pay the costs and attorney fees associated with getting a divorce. The reality is that the answer to this question is not simply a black and white situation.
Understanding Marital Assets
When divorce proceedings commence, a New York Family Court is concerned with what legally are known as marital assets. Marital assets represent the property that the parties to a divorce accumulated during the marriage.
Understanding Non-marital Assets
The possibility also exists that you own non-marital assets. Generally speaking, non-marital assets represent items of property that you owned before you entered into marriage with the party you now seek to divorce. Legally speaking, something that truly is an item of property you clearly owned before the marriage is not going to be subject to the divorce proceedings.
If something truly is a non-marital asset, and if the status of that property is not disputed by your spouse, you theoretically can sell that property and utilize the proceeds to pay your legal fees and other divorce-related costs.
You do need to take care however to make certain that nothing occurred after the marriage that converted an asset once classified as non-marital into one that is encompassed as a marital asset. For example, if you owned a car before the marriage and finished paying off the loan on the car with marital assets or money, at least a portion of the value of that car would be considered to be a marital asset.
Selling Marital Assets After Divorce Proceedings Commence
As a general rule, once divorce proceedings commence, a temporary freeze exists prohibiting the parties from selling the assets of the marriage for the benefit of one spouse. In other words, once divorcer proceedings commence, you generally are not permitted to start selling marital assets as a means to pay for your own attorney fees.
In most situations, the only way in which you can appropriately sell a marital asset for the purposes of paying your divorce expenses is to get authorization from the court to do so. Keep in mind that if you are granted permission to sell property to pay your attorney fees, the value of that property is likely to be assigned to the tally of assets that ultimately are set aside to you in the divorce proceedings.
Selling Marital Assets Before Divorce Proceedings Commence
You also need to take care when it comes to selling marital assets before a divorce case is filed as a means of generating money to pay your divorce-related costs, including attorney fees. While no court order is in place technically preventing the sale of assets, selling property to fund your divorce can prove to be problematic in some cases.
If you feel you need to generate funds from selling assets before a marriage dissolution case starts, to pay your divorce-related fees and other expenses, you should endeavor to get the agreement of your spouse to take this course. Indeed, you should get his or her agreement in writing, specifically delineating what items of property will be sold to assist you in paying your divorce costs, including attorney fees.
Retaining Legal Counsel
A qualified New York divorce lawyer can assist you in better understanding your rights as they pertain to marital assets and debt. You can schedule an initial consultation with an experienced New York divorce attorney to discuss your case, including to obtain answers to questions about marital assets, selling property, and your attorney fees.
A divorce attorney will provide an overall evaluation of your case. In most instances, a New York divorce lawyer does not charge a fee for an initial consultation with a prospective client about a case.