Long Island Equitable Distribution Lawyers Help Ensure Fair Property Divisions

Defending your property rights in settlement negotiations and at trial

One of the most vexing problems in a New York divorce is how to divide the couple’s assets and debt. New York follows the rule of equitable distribution, which demands that the court oversee a fair division of marital property. That doesn’t necessarily mean 50/50. And what seems fair from one spouse’s point of view could seem unjust from the other’s perspective. Simonetti & Associates works diligently to ensure fair property divisions. We gather evidence, seek expert opinions on complex financial matters and build the best case to support your rights. If you’re considering divorce, or if you’re not getting the attention you deserve from the attorney working on your property division, consider a call to Simonetti & Associates.

How does New York law divide a couple’s assets and debt?

Courts generally follow the steps below when dividing assets in compliance with the equitable distribution rule:

1. Sort the property. A court decides whether each asset is marital property or separate property according to the following definitions:

  • Marital property: Property obtained after the marriage began
  • Separate property: Property obtained before the marriage and continually held as separate property, and property that a spouse inherited or received as a gift during the marriage that was continually held as separate property. Whether property that was separate remained separate is a question of fact for the judge to decide; your attorney must be able to argue persuasively in your favor.

2. Assign values to the property. Marital property is appraised if necessary to assign a value as of a specific date. The date selected can have a huge effect on the appraised value. For example, an appraisal of the marital home or a stock portfolio could vary greatly between the date you file for divorce and the date of your final divorce hearing.

3. Distribute assets. Finally, the court distributes property to the spouses based on what the judge considers fair under the circumstances. New York courts rarely punish a spouse for being at fault for the divorce, but will more often punish bad behavior that dissipated the marital estate. A spendthrift spouse may receive a smaller share of assets as a penalty.

The problem of joint and several liability when dividing debts and liability

Couples who negotiate a divorce settlement have to be careful about how they assign debt. Their settlement agreement may intend that one party take sole responsibility for a liability, such as a credit card, but unless the documents are properly executed, the creditor may claim the debt is still joint and several. That means that if your spouse stops paying, the creditor may come after you to satisfy the whole obligation. An experienced divorce attorney can help ensure your divorce settlement is clear about debt assignments and spare you the aggravation of dealing with your ex-spouse’s creditors.

Retirement division in a New York state divorce

Retirement accounts are frequently the largest asset in a Long Island divorce. According to New York state law, retirement funds paid into during the marriage are marital property and subject to equitable distribution. Most often, an ex-spouse will be entitled to 50 percent of the benefit earned during the marriage. Through a qualified domestic relations order, QDRO, your attorney can divide a retirement plan without having to liquidate the account, thereby saving you from tax liability.

Call our Long Island equitable distribution lawyers for a free consultation

If you want to make the most of your marital assets, remember that Simonetti & Associates provides quality legal representation at an affordable price. Contact us online or call us at 877-385-2560 today to arrange a free consultation. We offer flexible office hours at our Woodbury and New York locations and return calls after hours for your convenience.