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Understanding equitable division in a New York divorce

When a married couple decides that they are better off alone, the process of separating two lives that have been merged together can be tedious and strenuous.

To ensure that the parties receive a fair split, it is important to understand the different elements of a New York divorce. One key element of the process is equitable division. 

Definition

As the name indicates, equitable distribution is a means of splitting assets during a divorce. Whereas some forms of distribution lean more towards a 50:50 split, equitable distribution focuses on making the distribution fair between the parties. To accomplish this, the courts utilize the doctrine of equitable distribution to determine the best means of distributing the two parties' assets in a way that will suit their future financial standing, once the divorce is complete.

Differences from community property

Though most states utilize equitable division, a few still observe community property. It is important to understand the difference. With community property, the courts focus on splitting marital assets evenly, according to value. On the other hand, with equitable division, the courts focus on what will be fair, considering the different factors that each party may face, such as skills and ability to work, child custody and personal assets.

Marital vs separate

In short, separate property is property that a person acquires before or after a marriage, while marital property is generally any property that either party acquires during the course of the marriage. In the case that one person receives an inheritance, gift or other asset meant specifically for them, it may fall under separate property. With an equitable division, the court will consider both marital and separate property in its decision, but it will only divide the marital property. To aid in separating the two, both parties must complete a schedule of assets and debts. 

Understanding these main concepts of equitable division may be helpful during the divorce process. However, it may not be necessary; if a couple is able to work out a separation agreement outside of court, that is always the best option.

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