Domestic Relations Law §236(B)(5)(c) requires that the Court equitably distribute marital property between the parties to a divorce. Equitable distribution however, does not necessarily mean equal distribution, and the Court must consider the circumstances of the case and the respective parties when distributing the marital assets.
What is “Marital Property”?
Marital property is all property acquired by either or both spouses during the marriage and before execution of a separation agreement or the commencement of a matrimonial action, regardless of the form in which title to the property is held.
What is “Separate Property”?
- Property acquired before the marriage or property acquired by bequest, devise, decent or a gift from a party other than the spouse;
- Compensation for personal injuries;
- Property acquired in exchange for or the increase in value of separate property, except to the extent that such appreciation is due in part to the contributions or efforts of the other spouse; and
- Property not described as separate property by written agreement.
How do Courts determine an equitable distribution of marital property?
The trial Court must make findings of fact regarding each of the fourteen (14) separate factors which include:
- The income and property of each party at the time of marriage, and at the time of the commencement of the action;
- The length of the marriage and the age and health of both parties;
- The need of a custodial parent to occupy or own the marital residence and to use or own its household effects;
- The loss of inheritance and pension rights upon dissolution of the marriage as of the date of dissolution;
- The loss of health insurance benefits upon dissolution of the marriage;
- Any award of maintenance;
- Any equitable claim to, interest in, or direct or indirect contribution made to the acquisition of marital property by the party not having title, including joint efforts or expenditures and contributions and services as a spouse, parent, wage earner and homemaker, and to the career or career potential of the other party. The Court shall not consider as marital property subject to distribution the value of a spouse’s enhanced earning capacity arising from a license, degree, celebrity goodwill, or career enhancement. The Court shall consider the direct or indirect contributions to the development during the marriage of the enhanced earning capacity to the other spouse;
- The liquid or non-liquid character of all marital property;
- The probable future financial circumstances of each party;
- The impossibility or difficulty of evaluation any component asset or any interest in a business, corporation or profession, and the economic desirability of retaining such asset or interest intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party;
- The tax consequences to each party;
- The wasteful dissipation of assets by either spouse;
- Any transfer or encumbrance made in contemplation of a matrimonial action without fair consideration; and
- Any other factor which the Court shall expressly find to be just and proper.