New York Divorce Laws on Property Distribution With the Length of Marriage

By Beverly Bird

New York is an equitable distribution state so there are no hard-and-fast rules dictating how courts will distribute property in a divorce. Unlike in community property states where courts are obligated to split marital assets 50/50 between spouses, equitable distribution states give judges discretion to rule in a way they think is fair. Article 13, Section 236 of the Consolidated Laws of New York lists 13 separate factors judges can consider when dividing property, but these factors are only statutory guidelines. They're not rules.

Increases in Earnings

The first factor in Section 236 advises judges to compare what spouses were earning at the time they married against what they're earning at the time they file for divorce. After only a few years of marriage, the difference might not be much. After 20 years of marriage, however, it could be far greater, especially if one spouse devoted time to child-rearing and the home while the other concentrated on career advancement. The law allows New York judges to give less than 50 percent of a couple's property to the spouse whose earnings have increased the most because that spouse can more easily replace the property awarded to the other.

Reliance on the Marital Partnership

The second factor in Section 236 specifically addresses the length of a marriage. After short-term marriages, New York judges tend to restore spouses to the financial condition they were in before they wed. This might result in an uneven division if one spouse contributed financially more to marital property because he brought more income into the marriage. After long-term marriages, spouses are more likely to have spent years relying on each other financially. The second factor allows judges to divide property 50/50 after longer marriages, so spouses equally share everything they acquired together over the years.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Likelihood of Future Employment

The eighth factor advises New York judges to take an educated guess at what each spouse will be able to earn going forward, after the divorce. After a long-term marriage, if one spouse has rarely or never worked because she was taking care of the home, she will be less likely to qualify for a high-paying job post-divorce and won't be able to replace property awarded to her spouse. Equitable distribution law allows a judge to award her more marital property to compensate for that. For example, a judge might give her the marital home because she's not likely to be able to afford a home post-divorce on her own.

Impact of Spousal Support

An award of spousal support or alimony can also affect a judge's decision regarding property division. If a spouse is receiving alimony, this might lessen her need for certain marital assets that would produce income, such as rental property or an investment account. Alimony is more likely to be awarded after longer marriages.

Judge's Discretion

The last factor listed in Article 13, Section 236 of the Consolidated Laws of New York, is the one that can make property division uncertain for divorcing couples. It refers directly to the concept of equitable distribution, stating that a judge can weigh any additional factors he feels are important to making a "just and proper" decision. This intangible can sway a judge's decision, regardless of how long a divorcing couple was married.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How Are Alimony Payments Determined?

References

Related articles

Spousal Support Guidelines in Virginia

Virginia’s alimony statutes were relatively stagnant until 1998 when the legislature finally took steps to bring its laws current with the social climate. The 1998 legislation changed the term “alimony” to “spousal support,” and it allows judges a little more discretion when awarding it. Since then, some counties have continued to upgrade their spousal support guidelines, predominantly those in the northern part of the state.

Does a Spouse Receive Alimony When Divorced in Ohio?

Spouses can receive alimony during or after a divorce in Ohio, but it’s not an automatic right. Judges make alimony decisions on a case-by-case basis and after considering numerous factors. Section 3105.18 of the Ohio Revised Code lists these factors, but it doesn’t instruct a judge how to weigh them. Ultimately, it comes down to the opinion of the judge whether to award alimony and for how long.

Getting a Divorce in a Long-Term Marriage

Many of the same things are at issue when long-term and short-term marriages end: the marital home, retirement benefits and alimony. The longer the marriage, the less likely it is that child support and custody will be in dispute; children may have flown the nest after a 20-year marriage, or are close to doing so. However, like their children, parents grow older during the term of the marriage as well. This can put a different spin on the same issues.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Distribution of Marital Property in a Final Divorce Decree in Virginia

Property division in divorce can be difficult to understand in equitable distribution states because there are few hard ...

How Are Assets Divided in Michigan During a Divorce?

In community property states, the law demands that courts divide marital property 50/50 when couples divorce. In ...

Are Ohio Divorce Laws Different After 10 Years of Marriage?

Long marriages often have more complex issues involving property division, child custody, child support and alimony ...

How Is Alimony Calculated in Ohio?

Ohio's legislative code doesn't contain a mathematical equation for calculating alimony, also called spousal support. ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED