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Litigation. Collaborative Law. Mediation.

Complicated Asset Division During Divorce


High net worth divorces typically involve characterizing significant assets when couples divorce.  Also, the more that you commingle assets, the more complicated the process may be for determining what is separate and marital property.  Generally, property acquired prior to marriage is separate property and property acquired during marriage is marital property.  For example, pensions that accrue during marriage are usually marital property subject to property division.  A home that you acquired prior to marriage may initially start out as separate property, but payments made on the mortgage after marriage would fall under marital property, which makes characterization and division more complex.   Also the appreciation of separate property assets, whether it is active or passive appreciation, is another factor to consider.

Types of assets to evaluate may include:

  • Annuities
  • Retirement accounts
  • Pensions
  • Stock portfolios
  • Real estate holdings
  • Multiple bank accounts
  • Trusts
  • Multiple homes
  • Businesses
  • Bonds
  • Royalties
  • Deferred compensation
  • Executive bonuses
  • Inheritances
  • Gifts
  • Degrees or licenses earned during the marriage
  • Celebrity status

New York is an equitable distribution state and how couples must divide property falls under New York Domestic Relations Law § 236 Part B, which divides property equitably, which does not necessarily mean equally.

Any approach to divorce must take equitable distribution laws into consideration.  However, you have more latitude in reaching creative solutions when using collaborative law or mediation than traditional litigation because you and your spouse can craft your own agreements rather than letting the courts decide.  Courts are somewhat limited and generally unable to customize the types of resolutions that couples can devise on their own.  Also through mediation or collaborative divorce, you can work to minimize taxes and maximize benefits by consulting financial planners, accountants, appraisers, actuaries, and retirement specialists.

New York divorce lawyers with experience in helping couples deal with complicated asset distribution can provide valuable guidance.