The Effect of Domestic Violence on Equitable Distribution

How Spousal Abuse Is Reflected in Asset Division

New York is one of many states that, during the divorce process, redistributes marital property “equitably.” While this does not always translate to an exact 50-50 split of assets, it reflects the judge’s intent to reassign a couple’s shared belongings in a way they deem fair.

Deciding what is fair is not entirely subjective. Rather, New York law outlines a number of factors for a judge to consider when reaching a verdict on asset division. The criteria long remained unchanged until recently.

In 2020, New York adopted a new amendment directing family law courts to consider whether either party committed an act, or multiple acts, of domestic violence. They will also consider the “nature, extent, duration, and impact of such act or acts.”

This consideration, originally introduced before the coronavirus outbreak, is the newest of 15 that the court will use when reaching a decision on how to equitably decide assets. Altogether, the factors that a judge must consider are:

  1. Each spouse’s separate property and income at the time of marriage and the time of divorce
  2. The length of the marriage and each spouse’s age and health
  3. Either custodial parent’s need to own the marital home
  4. Either spouse’s loss of inheritance or pension rights upon the dissolution of marriage
  5. Either spouse’s loss of health insurance benefits upon the divorce
  6. Any alimony that is awarded
  7. Whether one party made contributions to the marital property that they do not have a title for, such as by assuming the role of a homemaker while the other progressed in their career
  8. The marital property a couple has, and how much of it is in liquid and non-liquid assets
  9. The likely future financial status of each spouse
  10. The difficulty of assessing an asset’s value, such as interests in a business, and whether one spouse should be awarded the asset in order to run the business without interference by the other party
  11. The tax consequences each spouse will face
  12. Either spouse’s wasteful dissipation of assets
  13. Whether either spouse transferred or sold marital property immediately preceding the divorce so that the other could not receive it
  14. Whether either party committed acts of domestic violence
  15. Any other factor the court considers to be just and relevant in a given case

The adoption of this factor is significant. Prior to the explicit mention of domestic violence, victims instead had to prove that there was “egregious or outrageous” mistreatment. The vague nature of this guideline did a disservice to abused spouses, leaving the judge to decide whether the domestic violence met their particular interpretation of outrageous conduct.

Domestic violence is now a measurable factor that courts must consider in reallocation of marital assets. Learn more about what it could mean for your divorce case by contacting Empire Law today.