When a couple gets married they typically acquire a number of tangible assets over the years. They may buy a home, a car or two and perhaps a boat or a timeshare. Usually, couples buy these items assuming they belong to both of them and that they will share them for the remainder of their married lives. Unfortunately, even the best plans do not always come to fruition. And when a couple gets divorced, determining who retains what may be anything but straightforward.
For years, New York was what is known as a common law state. This means that in the eyes of the law, if you bought it during your marriage, you own it. So if a wife used her earnings to buy a car and her name alone was on the title, the wife automatically got the car in the event of a divorce. The divorcing couple could either decide how to divvy up property that was jointly owned (e.g. a house that had both their names on the deed) or let the court decide for them.
Unfortunately for divorcing couples, New York is no longer a common law state and, as a result, dividing up property obtained during a marriage has gotten a lot more complicated. Today, New York is considered an equitable distribution state. This means that the court disregards whose name is on what and instead attempts to divide all assets as fairly and equitably as possible. To make the decision about who gets what, the judge will use a variety of factors, including who will have primary custody of children, income levels and earning potential, debts, the liquidity of each asset and much more.
Navigating the emotional pitfalls of a divorce is draining. Attempting to sort out the legalities and figure out the ramifications of what belongs to whom and who is going to keep what may be significantly more than divorcing couples can handle. A family attorney can help you understand the law as it applies to you and, if possible, help you and your ex come to an amicable agreement through a process called collaborative divorce. And if you must take your case to court, a family law attorney will work to ensure you get the best deal possible.