Practical Guidelines to Dividing the Marital Estate

Practical Guidelines to Dividing the Marital Estate by Sandy Balick

{2:36 minutes to read} New York’s equitable distribution law and the state’s matrimonial courts are quite supportive of the efforts of divorcing spouses to reach voluntary agreements regarding the manner in which assets and debts of the marital estate are distributed between them. Mediation offers an ideal environment with which to achieve these voluntary workouts.

In mediation, the parties are free to shape their agreements to reflect both a mutual sense of fairness and a practical recognition of future financial need and ability to fund separate lifestyles.

In matters of equitable distribution, the mediation process is at its most effective when participating spouses:

1. Engage in full and voluntary disclosure of assets and liabilities; and

2. Act with basic knowledge of applicable principles.

The goal of this article is to acquaint parties contemplating mediation with some of these important considerations.

New York’s equitable distribution laws and the many court cases decided under guide mediation participants in identifying:

1. Which assets and debts are part of the marital estate and which are therefore eligible for distribution; and

2. The statutory considerations by which courts distribute debts and assets of the marital estate.

Application of these considerations, while not mandatory in mediation, may provide a helpful framework for the parties’ discussions.

The distinction between marital and non-marital is, at first glance, a matter of fundamental simplicity. Marital property is all the property (and debts) acquired “by either or both spouses” from the date of the marriage forward, until the filing of a matrimonial action in New York’s Supreme Court.

New York’s equitable distribution law helps to narrow the debate between marital and non-marital property by identifying three specific types of property which are non-marital:

  • Inheritances and gifts (other than from a spouse);

  • Personal injury compensation; and

  • Property deemed separate by formal agreement of the spouses (such as in a prenuptial or separation agreement).

The bright-line distinction may dim in view of the financial practicalities of everyday living. My next installment will highlight several areas that do not always present themselves in neat categories of marital and non-marital.

Sanford (Sandy) Balick, Attorney & Mediator, NY Sandy Balick signature
Sanford E. Balick, Esq.
Founder & Principal Mediator
Consensus Point Mediation, LLC.

Phone: (646) 340-3434
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