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One of the most contentious elements of many New York divorce cases is addressing issues associated with assets and debts. Indeed, arguing over property can cause a divorce case to drag on indefinitely, and oftentimes unnecessarily.
Manhattan property division lawyers, with a significant background in divorce proceedings, can work to lessen the tension and drama associated with the distribution of assets and debts when a marriage comes to an end. In addition, a person contemplating a divorce best understands his or her legal rights and interests by developing a basic understanding of marital property is dealt with in a New York divorce case.
Legal Standard for Dividing Assets and Debts in a New York Divorce
The state of New York has adopted what is known as the equitable division standard when it comes to dividing assets and debts in a divorce case. The equitable division standard mandates that the assets and debts accumulated by the parties to a marriage are divided in a fair and equitable manner in divorce proceedings.
The equitable division standard does not mean that property and debts are divided equally. Equal division is what is done in a community property state, like California. The vast majority of states in the United States use the same equitable division standard as used in New York.
Factors Considered in Applying the Equitable Division Standard
A court considers a number of factors when it comes to the application of the equitable division standard. These include a consideration of who will have primary custody of the children and whether alimony will be awarded in the case. The specific facts considered in dividing assets and debts are unique to each individual marriage dissolution case.
Defining Marital Assets
Only marital assets and debts are subject to division in a divorce case. In other words, as a general rule this represents property acquired and debts amassed from the date of the marriage until a point in time associated with divorce proceedings.
Property owned outright by a party prior to a marriage normally will not be considered to be a marital asset. The same holds true for preexisting debt.
There are exceptions to this general rule, however. For example, if marital assets are utilized to pay off a debt acquired by a party before the marriage, that use of marital funds will be taken into consideration in determining how assets and debts are divided in a divorce case.
Complex Property Valuation in High Net Worth Divorce
It can be a difficult task to assign a value to different items. Nonetheless, this is a key step in the process of property division. You may not even realize how valuable your marital assets are if you or your spouse have a cash-based business or any other unreported income streams.
A well informed Manhattan property division attorney can help you to review assets, including:
- Real property
- Professional practices and small businesses
- High value Intellectual Property
- High art
- Cars, boats, and other types of vehicles
- Various family heirlooms
- Investment instruments such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds
- Foreign funds
- Retirement plans
Giving full disclosure of all the assets owned by both parties in the divorce is essential to a fair process. A person who could conceal, undervalue or dissipate assets is doing so to deny you of what could be rightfully yours. You should have a Manhattan lawyer who will work hard to protect your estate and work towards obtaining a fair and equitable share of the joint assets.
Coming to the final separation of complex assets requires great efficiency and keen attention to detail.
Property Settlement Agreement
A majority of divorce cases in New York do not end up in trials. Rather, the parties to these cases end up negotiating settlements of their cases. There are some points to bear in mind when it comes to property settlement agreements in New York.
The parties to a divorce have fairly significant latitude in the manner in which they settle issues in a divorce case. In fact, courts tend to favor couples reaching agreements regarding issues in divorce cases as opposed to these matters proceeding to trials.
With that said, the equitable division standard must still be taken into consideration when parties to a divorce negotiate a property settlement agreement. A property settlement agreement typically cannot be terribly lopsided.
Once a property settlement agreement is reached between the parties, it is intended to become a part of the final divorce decree. With that understood, the judge presiding in a divorce case must first approve the settlement agreement. A judge will review a settlement agreement to ensure that it is fair and equitable.
If a settlement of some or all of the major issues in a divorce case cannot be accomplished, a trial will be scheduled. A divorce trial is conducted in front of a judge only, and not a jury. The complexities associated with divorce trials, and associated proceedings, underscore the need for legal representation in a marriage dissolution case.
To make a prenuptial agreement, each of the parties needs to fully disclose their assets. Only giving the other person all the information permits the parties to enter into the agreement voluntarily. If either party withholds any information, the whole agreement might be rendered invalid.
An agreement can address numerous aspects of real and personal property. In a prenup, the parties can agree that certain pieces of property are classified as separate property. That means that they aren’t part of the marital estate that would be divided in the event of a divorce.
In addition to agreeing on how to deal with assets, a prenup can also cover matters related to debt. For example, if one party comes into the marriage with significant debt, the agreement can lay out who keeps that debt in the event of a dissolution of a marriage. This is helpful to give a spouse peace of mind that they don’t have to take on any non-secured debt or student loans that their spouse incurs before the marriage.
A valid prenuptial agreement can dictate the way in which assets and debts are shared out during a marriage. If a prenuptial agreement is deemed legally sufficient, and was freely entered into by the parties, even if a prenuptial agreement seems to provide what otherwise would be deemed an unfair distribution of assets and debts, it is likely to bind the parties and govern who gets what in regard to assets and debts.
Retaining a Skilled Manhattan Property Division Lawyer
The first step in engaging the services of a Manhattan property division lawyer is scheduling what is known as an initial consultation. During this preliminary appointment, an experienced lawyer will spell out the basics regarding property division in New York. An attorney will provide other necessary information regarding divorce proceedings in New York. Legal counsel will also answer any questions a prospective client may have about a divorce case. A divorce lawyer usually charges no fee for an initial consultation.