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What is an equitable division?

People often assume that the property division process seeks an equal division of assets. You get 50 percent of the assets, you ex gets the other 50 percent and you go on your way.

While this varies by state, in New York, it's not necessarily true. New York law stipulates that a division must be fair and equitable. This doesn't mean it's going to be even if the court decides it would be fair for one spouse to get more than the other.

Three main factors that are considered include:

  1. How long the marriage lasted.
  2. What financial contributions each person made.
  3. What needs each person has after the split and what financial resources are required to meet those needs.

This law recognizes the fact that not all marriages are exactly the same and so each one has to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

For example, perhaps you were married for 30 years. You both worked and earned approximately the same amount of money. Your financial needs after the split are simple; neither one of you is disabled or has serious medical concerns.

Another couple was only married for 12 months. One spouse didn't work or contribute at all financially. The other had a high-paying job and bought everything, from groceries to the couple's home. The person who didn't work is fully capable of doing so, but would just prefer not to.

It's clear that both of these situations are very different and a fair split may not look the same from one case to the next. If you're getting divorced, never assume you know how property will be divided. Always take the time to really look into your legal rights.

Source: Investopedia, "Equitable Division," accessed Dec. 07, 2017

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