Equitable distribution is a term that may be unfamiliar to many individuals but quickly becomes part of the common vernacular for those involved in divorce proceedings. The expression refers to one of the most hotly contested issues when a marriage is dissolved: the division of property.
Contrary to popular belief, a divorce does not mean that all the property held by the couple is equally divided between the two spouses. The process is significantly more complex. The state of New York is, by law, an equitable distribution state. Unless a couple comes to their own agreement on the distribution of their property, a judge will decide how it should be divided based on what he deems to be equitable or fair.
In order to make his decision, the judge first divides the property into two categories: separate property and marital property. Separate property includes any asset owned by an individual prior to the marriage. It may also include assets purchased after the marriage if they were bought using funds held by one partner prior to the union. Marital property refers to all other items purchased by the couple after the marriage. It also includes the wages of both individuals and their retirement funds. Any asset deemed to be separate property is retained by the spouse who purchased it. The judge then evaluates the marital property to determine its distribution.
With equitable distribution, several factors are taken into account. The judge will consider factors from each party's age and health to the duration of the marriage. The presence and amount of required maintenance payments is another important factor. Of course, special consideration will be given to the spouse that has custody of the children, since they may need to retain possession of the house and its effects. If either party has acted dishonestly in the care of their assets, those actions will be factored into the deliberations as well.
This process can be very overwhelming and confusing for the individuals involved. It is important for someone considering divorce proceedings to understand fully their options and the possible outcomes. An experienced family law attorney can be an invaluable help in this procedure.
If you are contemplating initiating divorce proceedings or perhaps are already in the midst of the process, contact Abraham & Jesselson Law Group, LLC today for a consultation.