In New York, marital fault is not typically a factor when dividing property during a divorce. In general, courts carry out an equitable distribution of marital property based on consideration of a number of factors, most of which relate to each spouse’s resources and needs. However, certain types of injurious conduct — such as acts of domestic violence — can reduce a spouse’s relative share of the distributed assets.
Until 2020, the state’s divorce laws listed 14 factors that courts should consider in the equitable distribution process. That year, a 15th factor was added. Courts must now consider whether and to what extent either spouse committed acts of domestic violence against the other spouse. These can include acts of verbal, psychological, mental, emotional and financial domestic abuse.
Before this amendment, New York courts could consider any other factor found to be “just and proper” in dividing up property. However, courts found domestic abuse to meet that standard only if the conduct was “egregious” or “conscience-shocking.” The behavior needed to rise to the level of threatening human life or the “integrity of the human body.” Certain types of domestic violence, such as verbal, emotional or financial abuse, were not deemed sufficient.
Now, with the 15th factor added to the statute, courts must consider all instances of domestic violence when equitably dividing property in a divorce. The greater the force used and the frequency and duration of the conduct, the more domestic violence will impact the alleged abuser’s share of the marital property. Notably, domestic violence will be considered as an equitable distribution factor even if the divorce is filed on no-fault grounds.
Property division in a divorce can be a contentious process and can be further complicated if you’re in an abusive relationship. Working with a qualified New York divorce lawyer can provide the support and confidence you need when going through a difficult time.
If you have questions about the division of marital assets in a divorce, the Law Offices of Randy S. Margulis is ready to respond. Our offices are located in Williamsville and downtown Buffalo, New York and we represent clients throughout the western part of the state. Contact us online or call 716-886-9600 to schedule a confidential consultation.
As a Buffalo divorce lawyer for 28 years, I have devoted myself to solving the problems that affect families throughout the Buffalo metropolitan area and Western New York. As a family law attorney, I make it my goal to create a partnership of trust with my clients. People put their trust in me to handle cases that can potentially have a long-lasting impact on not only their lives, but the lives of their family as well.
Alexandra M. Rockwood is a Senior Associate Attorney with the Law Offices of Randy S. Margulis & Associates and has been with the firm since early 2020. She primarily practices in the areas of matrimonial and family law, including divorce, child custody, and child support. Alexandra is a practicing matrimonial and family law attorney as…