Court Discusses Property Rights in New York Divorces

Under New York law, when a couple divorces, any marital assets are subject to equitable distribution. In other words, the courts will allocate them in a manner they deem fair, which does not necessarily mean they will be divided equally. Separate property, on the other hand, remains the property of the spouse to whom it belongs. In some instances, however, a party may be entitled to a percentage of the increase in value of their spouse’s separate property, as demonstrated in a recent New York case. If you have questions regarding how a divorce may affect your property rights, it is advisable to speak to an experienced New York divorce lawyer as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the parties married in 2007 and had two children together, both of whom were born in 2010. The husband subsequently filed an action for divorce. The case proceeded to a bench trial, after which the judge entered a judgment of divorce and awarded the husband, among other things, 50% of the value of appreciation of the marital home. The wife appealed.

Property Rights in New York Divorces

The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order with regard to its decision to grant the husband 50% of the value of the appreciation of the marital home, which was the wife’s separate property. The court explained that under Domestic Relations Law section 236, equitable distribution of assets must be based on the unique circumstances of the case in consideration of multiple statutory factors.

In weighing such factors, though, the courts have broad discretion in determining what is fair under the circumstances, and unless a party demonstrates they abused their discretion, their decision will stand. Further, the appellate court explained that pursuant to New York’s equitable distribution statute, while separate property includes an increase in the value of such property, there is an exception for appreciation due, in part, to the efforts of contributions of the other spouse.

In other words, any appreciation in the value of separate property that arose out of the non-owner spouse’s contributions may be considered marital property in certain situations. Such contributions may be financial and nonfinancial, like making improvements or remodeling a marital home.  In the subject case, the appellate court found that contrary to the wife’s assertions, there was ample evidence in the record to support the trial court’s ruling with regard to the appreciation of the marital home. As such, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Contact an Assertive New York Divorce Attorney

The manner in which property should be disbursed is one of the primary points of contention in many divorces, and it is critical for anyone faced with divorce proceedings to hire an attorney that will fight to protect their interests.  If you have questions regarding equitable distribution in divorces, you should contact an attorney promptly. Ksenia Rudyuk is an assertive New York family law attorney who can advise you of your rights and help you to pursue the best legal outcome available under the facts of your case. You can contact Ms. Rudyuk via the form online or at 212-706-2001 to set up a meeting.

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