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The Value of Professional Licenses and Degrees

During the course of her marriage, Victoria Esposito-Shea obtained a law degree. When Victoria and her husband divorced, their assets were divided. Victoria’s law degree was valued at $126,000 and her husband was awarded 10 percent of its value.

The valuation of a professional license or degree is the most contentious issue in many New York divorce settlements. Although not listed in the New York Domestic Relations Law as an item to consider when making an equitable distribution of a couple’s assets, the courts nevertheless value anything that has enhanced a spouse’s earning capacity, such as:

  • Professional degrees and licenses, including medical, legal, accounting, nursing and teaching degrees
  • Certifications and qualifications as home health care aides, cosmetologists, truck drivers, etc.
  • Industry certifications that are not considered a license or degree, but nevertheless enhance a person’s earning capacity (e.g. airline pilot ratings)
  • Exceptional skills and abilities developed during a marriage that enable a person (such as a sales rep) to significantly outperform others in their industry
  • Celebrity and/or professional status and goodwill acquired during a marriage

If you are seeking to be awarded a portion of the value of your spouse’s professional license, degree or practice, you must show that it is marital property. This means the work and training took place during your marriage and were directly or indirectly supported by career sacrifices, financial contributions, and/or assumption of most of the housework and/or child care responsibilities.

Once a calculation is made as to the value of the degree, license, certification or skill, the court determines what percentage is awarded to the other spouse. In the Shea case, the husband’s share of the wife’s law degree was set at 10 percent, but in your case it could be more or less depending on the length of your marriage and the contributions made by each of you.

It is crucial to hire an attorney who is familiar with the complexities of this type of valuation.  If you have questions about how the professional license, degree or other certification that you or your spouse acquired during your marriage impacts your divorce, call our office for a consultation.

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