When Equitable Doesn't Always Mean Equal

When dividing up assets during a divorce, "equitable distribution" does not necessarily mean equal. Instead, "equitable" simply means that each spouse walks away with his or her equal share in the assets (and debts) that he or she put into the marriage, however long that was.

There are many possible options for compromise, though of course not everyone is ready or willing to enter the dialog in the spirit of negotiation. For this reason, it is essential that you hire an experienced, detail-oriented attorney who will look out for your best interests and make sure you receive an "equitable" amount.

When it comes to dividing up your property — whether it's your marital home, retirement benefits, investments or business shares — experience matters. I have more than 25 years of experience helping family law clients throughout New York and New Jersey come through a divorce successfully. No matter the size of your estate, we will work together to ensure your rights are protected.

Dividing Separate Property From Shared Property

One of the toughest aspects of dividing property is determining what is separate property versus marital property. If you and your spouse cannot agree on these terms, a court will decide by instigating a full review of your financial portfolio, your spouse's and that of your shared life together.

Anything that you came into the marriage with, before you took your vows, is yours: separate property, as it were. This also includes any lawsuits you may have won or an inheritance that you received. If you did not put this money into a joint account, it remains separate property in a divorce.

What The Court Will Consider If Parties Can't Agree

Once assets have been properly classified, anything deemed marital property is then equitably divided between the parties. If spouses cannot agree on how to divide these shared assets and liabilities, the court will determine what would be considered equitable. While not an exact science, the court will typically take the following into account:

  • The income and property of each individual spouse
  • Whether either spouse made premature transfers of property prior to divorce
  • The length of the marriage
  • The use or spending of assets to prevent them from being divided ("wasteful dissipation")
  • How each spouse contributed to homemaking, childcare, education or career of the other
  • Possible tax concerns
  • Custody and support responsibilities
  • The present and future earning capacity of each spouse
  • The ability of the spouse with a higher net worth to pay alimony
  • The age and health of both spouses
  • The present and future earning capacities of both spouses
  • Any other factors the court deems just and equitable

Will The Grounds For My Divorce Affect Equitable Distribution?

Quite simply, no. When dividing assets, your grounds for divorce will not come into play. The family court system uses a tangible, calculated method for determining the division of property, and it usually has nothing to do with domestic violence or adultery. Only in cases of "egregious conduct," which are fairly rare, will the grounds for divorce have an impact on equitable distribution.

Get Clear Answers And Experienced Help

The longer the marriage, the blurrier the property lines. This can be one of the most overwhelming and highly contested portions of a divorce. By taking a straightforward approach to equitable division, I seek to obtain the best possible results for my clients in an efficient manner. Call 718-720-1000 or contact my firm online to schedule a consultation at my office in Staten Island.