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Monday, November 18, 2013

Attaining Equitable Property Division in New York City Divorce

A man in Colorado recently stunned divorce attorneys during a deposition when he told them he had converted $500,000 in marital assets into gold and then proceeded to dump that gold into a massive landfill - all in an effort to avoid giving his soon-to-be-ex-wife a penny in their divorce settlement. 

While our New York City divorce attorneys have seen many shades of vindictiveness in the course of aiding countless marital dissolutions, this may be among one of the worst examples. 

Even assuming that he is telling the truth and no longer has possession of the gold, such actions are extremely rare. More commonly, we run into situations where one spouse attempts to hide assets from another. This is why hiring a good divorce lawyers is so critical in these cases. There are a number of methods your divorce lawyer can use to help you uncover those assets and ensure that you have access to all relative marital property. An attorney who is both dedicated and experienced is going to be central to the success o such efforts. 

Courts in New York honor a system of asset division in divorces called "equitable distribution." Equitable in this case does not mean equal. In fact, more than likely, you're not going to see a 50-50 split. The court's goal is going to be having each spouse walk away with as fair a deal as possible, based on a number of factors, including what each is going to need in order to move forward. 

In many cases, we have found that couples without children can amicably reach conclusions about how to divide property on their own, without any help from the courts. In choosing to decide between themselves how assets will be divided - without court intervention - couples can file for an uncontested no fault divorce (which our offices offer for $499). These tend to be far less expensive, less time-consuming and more amicable. 

However, we also understand that sometimes it may not be possible for a separating couple at odds to reach an agreeable solution on their own. In these cases, the court is going to weigh a number of factors in choosing how property is going to be divvied up. Among those factors are:

  • The length of the  marriage;
  • How much each spouse earned in income when they first married and how much they earned at the time the divorce was filed;
  • The health and age of each spouse;
  • Which spouse is going to retain primary custody of any common children (or if they both intend to share custody equally);
  • The rights to health insurance, pension and inheritance that one spouse may lose as a result of the divorce;
  • The future outlook of each spouse's finances;
  • The details of tax consequences to each spouse;
  • If there has been any wasteful dissipation or unfair encumbrance of marital assets by one spouse (dumping $500,000 in gold bars in a landfill would certainly count under this item). 

There may be ways for each spouse to retain a larger chunk of certain assets by arguing necessity on one of these grounds. Alternatively, there could be an argument to be made that the property in question is not marital property, but rather separate property.

Generally, marital property is going to be all of that which was acquired by either or both during the marriage - regardless of who actually holds the title. (The same principal applies to debt as well.) The courts for the most part are going to consider marital property as any income earned during the marriage, any property bought with that income, any property bought at all during the marriage and any retirement benefits earned during the course of the marriage.

Conversely, separate property is going to be that that you had or acquired prior to the marriage, property received as an inheritance or gift (except from the other spouse), any personal injury compensation or any property that is defined as separate in a prenuptial agreement or any other sort of marital contract. 

Each case is going to be different. If you are weighing a divorce filing in New York and have questions about what you might be able to expect in terms of asset division, call us today. 

Our New York City divorce attorneys are available for consultation at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Teller County man claims he dumped gold in landfill during divorce dispute, Oct. 24, 2013, By Lance Benzel, The Gazette

More Blog Entries:

 New York No-Fault Divorce in Its Third Year, Oct. 26, 2013, New York City Divorce Lawyer Blog


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