New York Court Discusses Consequences of a Party’s Failure to Pay Marital Debt in a Divorce Action

One of the most contentious issues in many divorce cases is how marital assets should be disbursed and what support if any, one spouse should be obligated to pay the other. Unfortunately, parties do not always agree with support orders issued by the court and in many cases, a party will refuse to pay money owed without additional court intervention. Recently, in a divorce case decided by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, the court discussed the consequences of one party’s failure to pay his or her share of marital debt. If you are deliberating filing for divorce it is prudent to speak with a seasoned New York family law attorney to discuss your rights and obligations.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the wife filed an action seeking a divorce in 2012. The parties entered into a stipulation in which the husband agreed to pay the wife maintenance and child support, and the wife agreed to use the funds she received from the husband to pay for fees associated with the marital home where she resided with the couple’s children. The wife wanted to sell the home, but the husband did not and sought to buy the wife’s share of the property, but the parties could not agree on a fair amount. The husband subsequently failed to make the stipulated maintenance and support payments, and the house went into foreclosure.

It is alleged that the wife moved to enforce the stipulation and direct the husband to pay his arrears so that the marital residence could be sold. The trial court granted the motion and ordered the marital home to be sold and directed that the husband’s arrearages would be taken from the proceeds of the sale. The order also stated that the wife would receive credits from the sale due to the husband’s dissipation of marital assets. The court ultimately issued the wife credit for 50% of the payments she made on the mortgage and taxes of the home, child support arrears, and a portion of the defendant’s business. The husband appealed, arguing that the court erred in granting the wife credits for her portion of the payments on the house, as it resulted in him making double payments due to the fact that he was paying child support during that time. The court rejected the husband’s argument.

Effect of a Party’s Failure to Pay its Share of Marital Debt

Under New York law, parties should bear the burden of paying marital debt equally, and unless there are facts that indicate otherwise, such liability should be equitably distributed. Further, it is typically the responsibility of both parties to maintain a marital home and keep it in good repair while a divorce is pending. Thus, when one party pays the other’s share of marital debt, the paying party is entitled to reimbursement.

In the subject case, the wife was entitled to receive reimbursement for her payment of the fees associated with the marital home during the pendency of the divorce, noting that the trial court considered the wife’s receipt of child support payments during that time when it issued the order. Further, the court stated that the amount of money the husband paid in child support during that time was less than the cost of maintaining the home, and the defendant’s refusal to participate in the sale of the home prevented the wife from reducing housing expenses.

Speak with an Experienced New York Divorce Attorney

If you or your spouse are contemplating divorce it is wise to speak with an experienced New York family law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your rights. Ksenia Rudyuk is an assertive attorney who will aggressively advocate on your behalf to help you strive for a favorable result. Contact Ms. Rudyuk at 212-706-2001 or via the online form to set up a conference regarding your legal needs.

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