NYC Property Division Lawyers
One of the most difficult tasks that accompanies the dissolution of any marriage involves the division of marital assets. An experienced family law attorney in New York City may be able to help you safeguard your best interests and protect your legal rights should you find yourself in the midst of a divorce proceeding where the division of marital property is a significant issue.
When a couple divorces in New York State, their joint property will be divvied up in a manner that the presiding court decides is equitable and fair. In arriving at this decision, the court considers a number of statutory factors, including the duration of the marriage, the amount of marital property, and each spouse’s personal circumstances and potential earnings.
• Marital duration
In general, the longer the marriage, the more complex property division can become. For one thing, it’s likely more assets will have been acquired during the course of a long-term marriage than during the course of a short-term marriage. For another, if one spouse was dependent upon another spouse’s income to sustain a joint standard of living, the court may award that spouse a higher percentage of the marital assets so that his or her quality of life will not be unduly affected.
In addition to a disproportionate division of assets, the court may also determine that the dependent spouse in a lengthy marriage has the right to receive spousal maintenance. This determination, however, will be made separately from any division of marital property.
• The amount of marital property
Marital property is any asset acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage. Assets owned by respective spouses before marriage are not considered marital property by New York courts; neither are gifts, inheritances or tort compensations for pain and suffering that were received by one spouse but not the other.
In New York, passive appreciation of an asset that one spouse owned individually before marriage will not be deemed a marital asset. However, if the spouse who did not own the asset contributed significantly to that asset’s appreciation, some part of that appreciation may be marital property. Calculating the monetary value of such appreciations can be a complex process.
Assets acquired by one spouse who intended to keep that asset in his or her own name may also be exempt from being considered marital property although these exemptions may be less clear cut. In some instances, spouses may have agreed in writing to keep these assets separate; in others, however, the spouse who acquired the asset may need to demonstrate that the asset was never used for the benefit of the other spouse or for the marriage.
• Personal circumstances
The court will also consider each spouse’s age, health, income and potential earning capacity when dividing marital assets. Age can have a significant effect on earning capacity since a person who is entering the job market after a long absence may be unable to find a suitable job if he or she is above a certain age. Health concerns may also hamper the ability to find appropriately remunerative employment.
Valuing Marital Property
Once all assets have been identified and classified as either marital or separate property, a value must be assigned to the marital property. In some cases, part of that process may involve determining a valuation date as well as a dollar amount. This process can become extremely complicated when assets like real estate, professional licensures and business stakes are involved.
Once the total dollar amount of the marital property is determined, the court will look at the statutory factors to determine the equitable division.
Just as property is divided in a New York divorce, debts are divided, too. Mortgages and unsecured credit card debt may be apportioned as part of the property division process. Under some circumstances, even student loan debt can be apportioned if the money borrowed went to living expenses and if the loan allowed one spouse to earn a significant amount of money that both spouses benefited from over an extended period of time.
The division of martial property can be a lengthy and convoluted process. Working with an experienced family law attorney in New York City can provide you with legal support that may be able to help you achieve the resolution of marital property division issues that’s most advantageous for you given the circumstances of your case.
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