What Types of Property Get Divided in Equitable Distribution?

Divorcing couples must go through the process of equitable distribution, in which their shared marital property is divided between them. One of the potential complications that can arise, though, is figuring out exactly what counts as “marital property” for the purposes of equitable distribution. What fits into that category, and how might that affect what both sides get in the divorce?

  1. Money put into shared accounts or investments
    • The law differentiates property between the personal property of each spouse and the marital property that belongs to both spouses. Any personal property, including money, can become marital property if it is intermingled with shared assets. For example, this includes putting personal funds into a shared bank account, or money put into investments intended to benefit both spouses.
  2. Houses, cars, and other family property
    • Another common type of marital property is any “family” items purchased for use by their entire family, during the course of the marriage. This may include a family home, cars, furniture, or any other items purchased for shared use. This also includes any property purchased with shared funds, such as money from a shared credit card or from a joint bank account.
  3. Degrees and professional licenses
    • In New York, one unusual type of “property” comes in the form of degrees and professional licenses. Specifically, it refers to any degrees or licenses earned during the course of the marriage, since it is assumed that the spouse will have given support to their spouse while they were earning that degree or license. As such, the monetary value of that degree or license may be considered “property” when equitable distribution goes forward and the court is deciding how much each spouse should receive.
  4. Retirement benefits and accounts
    • Dividing up retirement benefits and accounts can be quite odd, especially given that many divorcing couples are not of retirement age. However, the law states that any retirement benefits that have vested as of the time of the divorce must be split as though it were marital property. This includes, but is not limited to, pensions, 401(k) retirement accounts, and IRAs.
  5. Gifts to your spouse
    • It is normal for spouses to give gifts to one another, either as a result of special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries, or simply to express affection for one another. Unfortunately, a spouse who gives a gift should not expect to get fully compensated for it if they later divorce. That is because those gifts are considered marital property, and thus get divided up in equitable distribution like everything else.

If you have questions regarding equitable distribution or other aspects of family law, you should seek advice from an attorney experienced in handling these matters. A New York matrimonial lawyer, who is experienced in handling family law cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you are facing a dispute related to the equitable distribution of property, child custody, child support, or any other family law issue, contact the Suffolk County family court lawyers at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702 or visit our contact page.

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