New York Equitable Distribution Lawyer
Courts generally employ a three-pronged approach to equitable distribution. First, they decides what is marital property and what is separate property. Next, the Courts decide what is the value of all marital property to be distributed between the parties. Then the Court distributes the property fairly or “equitably”.
Some assets are valued easily (bank accounts, stocks and cash). Other assets will require an expert’s opinion to set a value, such as real estate, business interests, or a professional license. Finally, the Court will apply the relevant statutory factors in deciding how to distribute the valued marital assets fairly among the spouses.
Separate property is defined under DRL 236 B(1)(d) so as to include the following categories of assets:
- property acquired before the marriage
- property acquired by bequest, devise, descent (i.e., an inheritance) at anytime, either during or before the marriage
- gifts to one spouse from anyone other than the other spouse.
- compensation for personal injury cases, but only that part which constitutes punitive damages and pain and suffering.
- separate property acquired in exchange for separate property.
- appreciation of separate property will be considered separate property if the non titled spouse did contribute towards the appreciation.
- property designated as separate by a validly executed marital agreement as defined in DRL 236 B(3).
Marital property on the other hand is defined as any property which is not within the definition of separate property, and is any property which is acquired by either party during the marriage, regardless of who actually holds title to the asset. For example, real estate, bank accounts, pensions, stocks, automobiles, contract rights, businesses, professional licenses, seats on the stock exchange, and precious metals are all marital property subject to equitable distribution.