Under New York Family Law, Marriage May Boil Down to an “Economic Partnership”

When most people get married, they take into account their prospective spouse’s financial situation. Indeed, to some degree, it would be foolhardy not to take this information into account, given that in most cases a married couple acts as an economic partnership, sharing in both income and expenses. Indeed, New York courts take this reality into account when it comes to dividing up assets following a New York divorce proceeding.The idea behind the economic partnership model of marriage is important to grasp when it comes to understanding how courts divide assets following a New York divorce. New York is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the court does not merely divide up all assets 50/50 and send the parties on their way. Instead, courts take into account a number of factors in determining how to divide a couple’s assets.

New York Domestic Relations Law Article 13 section 236 outlines the criteria courts use to equitably distribute assets after a divorce. In all, the statute lists 13 considerations, including the duration of the marriage, as well as the age, income, and education of the parties. Courts will also consider the sacrifices one spouse made for the benefit of the couple. In addition, courts are able to consider “any other factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper.”

Acting as an Economic Partnership

When a married couple cohabitates and shares in income and expenses, courts will likely consider the couple’s marriage an “economic partnership.” If a court determines that a couple had an economic partnership, it is more likely that the courts will divide the couple’s assets up according to the factors listed in section 236. Alternatively, if a couple separates, but remains married, a court may determine that there was no economic partnership. This can have a major impact on how the court divides the couple’s assets, especially the assets that were acquired while the couple was not acting as an economic partnership.

In a recent case, a New York court described the state’s equitable distribution system, reflecting “an awareness that the economic success of the partnership depends not only upon the respective financial contributions of the partners, but also on a wide range of nonremunerated services” Thus, if a couple acts as an economic partnership, its more likely that the court will distribute assets equally.  If a couple is not acting as an economic partnership then courts may attempt to assign a dollar value to each spouse’s contributions and distribute the couple’s assets fairly according to each spouse’s efforts under the state’s equitable distribution framework. In addition, courts will take into account forward-looking criteria as well, such as a spouse’s income-earning potential.

Are You Involved in a New York Divorce?

If you are currently involved in a Long Island divorce, or anticipate going through a divorce in the near future, you should reach out to a dedicated New York divorce attorney as soon as possible. At the Law and Mediation Offices of Darren M. Shapiro, we represent clients in all types of New York family law issues, including divorce and child custody cases. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Shapiro to discuss how he can help you, call 516-333-6555 today.

More Blog Posts:

Equitable Distribution in New York Divorce Cases, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, March 7, 2018

Addressing Client Rights and Responsibilities in Family Law Cases, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, February 3, 2018

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