Property Division

When it comes to the division of property, our goal is to find solutions that not only meet our client’s individual needs, but also feel fair and equitable to their spouse. We assist our clients to identify all of the marital and separate (non-marital) assets and debts, we work with appropriate experts to value the assets, and we negotiate and advocate on our clients’ behalf for the desired distribution of marital assets.

How New York Divorce Property Division Works

One of the most important issues that couples face when divorcing or legally separating is how to divide the assets and debts they acquired during the marriage. These assets and debts are called Marital Property. In New York, marital property is divided in a divorce based upon the legal concept of equitable distribution. 

Typical assets to be divided include homes, businesses, bank and investment accounts, retirement accounts, stock options and other deferred compensation, vehicles, jewelry, antiques, and art. Typical debt to be divided includes mortgages, lines of credit, credit card debt, student loans (for the couple or their children) and personal loans.

It is also important to clarify which assets and debts were accumulated prior to the marriage or inherited by one spouse during the marriage. These assets and debts are called Separate Property. When a spouse has contributed separate property to a marital asset, they may be entitled to a separate property credit against that asset. 

FAQs About Property Division

Individuals going through a divorce typically express concern regarding how their property will be divided. Some of the most common questions our legal team receives include:

How is property divided in New York?

New York is an equitable distribution state, rather than a community property state. While property is split under both legal schemes, in New York, marital property is divided in a way that is considered equitable.  “Equitable” does not always mean “Equal.”  While some assets and debts may be divided equally, others may not.   

Marital property is defined as property acquired during the marriage, regardless of whether the title of the property is held jointly or individually. When dividing property, New York law tells us to consider 15 different factors leading to the divorce, including the age, health and incomes of the parties, the length of the marriage, the liquidity of the assets, and the future financial circumstances of each spouse. 

Are you liable for your spouse's debts in New York?

Because New York is an equitable distribution state, spouses are only responsible for the debts that they took on jointly during their marriage. A spouse is not responsible for any debt that the other party bore prior to the marriage and may not be responsible for secretly incurred debt related to goods or services that were incurred in some nefarious way.

Is a spouse entitled to property owned by the other before marriage?

All property acquired during the marriage is considered eligible for distribution during the divorce. Anything obtained prior to the marriage is generally considered separate property under New York law. This means that if you or your spouse came into the marriage with any assets, it is unlikely that they will be included in the valuation of your joint property. 

Assets obtained prior to the marriage are not the only property that can be considered separate property. Property obtained through inheritance or through a gift from someone other than your spouse is treated as separate property as well.  

Exceptions to the rules for separate property apply if marital funds were combined with separate funds, in an account for example.  When funds were commingled in this way, the separate property claim may be lost.  Additionally, if separate property increases in value due to efforts of one or both spouses during the marriage (such as when renovations are made to a pre-marital home), that increase in value may be seen as marital property. If you are uncertain whether a particular asset will be considered separate property or marital property, you should consult with an attorney. 

How a Divorce Team Can Help

Determining what is equitable for the division of assets and debts is different for every divorcing couple. Every situation is unique. But there are steps that can be taken to help each party feel confident that they will each receive the assets that are most important to them. When a couple uses mediation or the collaborative divorce process, the mediator, attorneys and other professionals on the divorce team will help the couple identify and value their marital property, discuss what factors are most important to them, and then work to enable the couple to come to a voluntary agreement on how assets and debts should be divided. 

While each spouse will have their own attorney, the rest of the divorce team is made up of neutral specialists. These specialists help the couple jointly and independently obtain the information, emotional support and resources they need to make decisions about their future including property valuation, division, and distribution.  

Take Your First Step Toward a Better Tomorrow

The lawyers at Vacca Family Law Group are ready to help you find the right solution for a fair and equitable division of property in your divorce. As we resolve each issue, we focus on keeping the process amicable to avoid inflaming emotions. Reach out to us at 212-768-1115 or complete the form below to request a confidential consultation.