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Differences between community property and equitable division

The two primary systems for dividing marital assets in the United States are community property and equitable division. The nine community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin, while the remaining 41 are equitable division states.

New York is an equitable division state, and this distinction impacts the outcome of a divorce settlement.

Community property states

When a couple divorces, courts in community property states consider all assets acquired during the marriage, regardless of who earned them, to be joint property. In these states, spouses are equal partners in the marriage, and upon divorce, the court generally divides the assets between them. These assets include both financial gains and debts incurred during the marriage, ensuring an equal split.

Equitable division states

Equitable division states adopt a more flexible approach by focusing on fairness rather than strict equality. When dividing assets, the court considers the following factors:

The goal is to treat both parties fairly, based on each’s circumstances. This strategy can be beneficial to women, who on average make only 83.7% of what men earn working full-time and often do more unpaid labor at home.

Impacts on divorce proceedings

Understanding that New York is an equitable division state is one of the first steps in navigating divorce proceedings. In community property states, each spouse has an automatic claim to half the marital assets, simplifying the division process. Conversely, in equitable division states, the court has more discretion, and the outcome may not result in a 50-50 split.

Individuals divorcing in New York should prepare themselves for a more intricate negotiation process than they might experience in other parts of the country.