The Bottom Line: Equitable Distribution in New York
At some point, divorce surprises everyone. Even an unhappy spouse who planned long for divorce eventually comes up against the unanticipated. Too often, that surprise comes when a couple tries to divide their property.
In New York, and anywhere else, spouses who can generally agree on how to divide their estate experience less conflict, and less legal expense. More often in the 25 years I have been practicing, I work with clients who need real help understanding asset division — and how to divide wealth without wasting it on legal fees.
For couples who cannot agree on property division, New York follows a rule of equitable division. This means a court aims for fair, not necessarily equal, property division. When the courts talk about marital estate, it means anything obtained during the course of marriage including:
- Real property
- Possessions and furnishings
- Financial instruments, accounts, and investments
- Business interests, leaseholds, partnership and other interests
Property owned separately can be held apart from division upon divorce. Separate property might be a gift to one party like an inheritance, not commingled with household finances. It could also be a business developed prior to marriage.
Once identified and defined, accurate valuation is critical to establishing real financial worth, including professional degrees or practices. Fair valuation helps parties — and the court — make equitable decisions about property.
Avoid unpleasant surprises and always get experienced legal advice before you sign on the bottom line.