Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Division of Assets in New York Part 1

Q: Equitable distribution: what does this mean?

A: Equitable distribution is the theory under which assets accumulated during a divorce are divided. The theory is based on the idea the assets should be divided in a fair and equitable manner. Under this standard, judges in New York are given a lot of leeway as to the dividing of assets based on the circumstances in each individual case. The theory of equitable distribution is that the marriage is a social and economic partnership. When the marriage breaks down, under the equitable distribution law, judges seek to make fair and reasonable distributions of the assets accumulated during the marriage between the parties. Equitable distribution does not mean equal distribution.

Q: What is marital property? What is separate property?

A: There are two types of property to be considered by a court in a divorce case. These types of property are either marital property or separate property. Marital property refers to all assets of every type and nature accumulated by the parties to the marriage during the course of the marriage. The theory of marital property does not take into consideration whose name the property is in. If the property is accumulated during the course of the marriage it is marital property. It makes no difference whose name is on the deed to the house, or on the title to the car. Separate property is property which was acquired before the parties married. In addition, assets acquired by a gift, inheritance or pursuant to an award in a personal injury lawsuit are considered separate property even if that property was acquired during the term of the marriage. If separate property appreciates during the course of the marriage, the appreciation of the separate property can be considered marital property. An example of this is a business which was worth $50,000 at the time of the marriage and is worth $500,000 at the time of the divorce. The $450,000 worth of appreciation of the business may be considered marital property.