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Family Law and Divorce

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Common Questions Concerning Marital Property

There are many aspects of dividing marital property and it is important for people to take the time to find the answers to the questions they have.

When people in Brooklyn get married, it is usually the happiest day of their life. However, for many couples, marital bliss does not last forever and these couples start thinking that perhaps life would be better if they split up and went their separate ways. In the meantime, they may have accumulated real estate, investments, art pieces and other assets. This can leave people with many questions over whether and how this property should be divided.

How is marital property divided in New York?

According to the New York Courts, marital property is subject to equitable distribution. This means that property is not always equally split between the spouses. Often, courts will look at several factors which may involve the following:

  • Education level of both spouses
  • Ability of spouses to support themselves
  • Length of the marriage
  • Health condition of the spouses

The contributions of spouses to the marriage are also considered. For example, a wife may have stayed at home to care for the children so that the husband could pursue his career or vice versa.

What is considered marital property?

Marital property is generally any property that was acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage. This includes retirement plans, spouses’ work bonuses, stocks, bonds and even 401k plans. However, there are some exceptions. Gifts, inheritances and compensation from a personal injury lawsuit are often counted as separate property, owned only by the spouse who was the recipient.

Can separate property become marital property?

Yes. There are conditions where separately held property could become marital property. For example, if a spouse inherits money from a parent or family member, and then places the money into an account with both spouses’ names on it, then a court may decide it is owned by both. The same is true if a spouse adds the other spouse’s name to a property that was separately owned.

How is marital property valuated?

Before marital property can be assigned a value, a valuation date must be chosen. This may be the date that the couple legally filed for separation or divorce, or a date they or the court has chosen. In New York, this is usually chosen after the divorce has begun.

Once the date is decided, the property is assigned a valuation amount based on that date. The change of that value after the valuation date has no impact on the divorce settlement. This means if a held stock significantly goes up, the other spouse cannot ask for more money when it is divided.

Dealing with marital property and division can be complex and confusing. People in Brooklyn may find it of worth to meet with an experienced divorce attorney.