The division of property is one of the most stressful parts of getting divorced. It’s easy to worry about what you will keep or lose, especially when you believe certain items are rightfully yours.
In a divorce, states have two general models for dividing property: equitable division and equal division. New York, like most states, uses the equitable division model. Under this system, the court evaluates who deserves to keep what property, and it divides the assets accordingly.
Within a marriage, there are two types of property, marital and separate. Separate property belongs to just one person. Generally, marital property is anything that either party purchases during the marriage. Technically, it belongs to both spouses, and this is the property that is up for debate.
In an equitable distribution system, you must prove that you are entitled to keep it. Here are some methods for proving entitlement in a divorce.
Proving That You Are the Primary User
Imagine that, while you are married, you manage to buy that classic sports car you’ve wanted your whole life. You baby it, keep it clean, keep it maintained, and take it out for weekend rides. Your spouse hardly ever uses it. Clearly, this is “your” car.
Because you are the primary user of this car, you can claim entitlement to it in your divorce. It would seem unreasonable or unfair for your spouse to get it, unless you neglected them or the family for the sake of this vehicle.
Proving That You Were a Major Contributor
Let’s change the narrative and imagine the family home. You are the stay-at-home parent, and your spouse brings in all the money. The entire family uses the home, but you are its major contributor. You keep it clean. Because you spend more time there, you notice more maintenance issues, and you make sure they are fixed. Perhaps you even spearhead projects for remodeling and additions.
There is a strong argument that everyone in uses the home equally, but you also have a reasonable claim that you maintained the home. Without your contribution, the property would be in worse shape and have less value. This is a reasonable argument for entitlement to the house.
Building Your Case for Entitlement
Work closely with your attorney, and tell them every detail about your use and contribution to all major assets. They may be able to build strong strategies around your experiences and prove that you should maintain sole ownership.
You can also build a case against your spouse’s entitlement. To do this, prove the opposite of contribution or primary use. Show how their neglectful or destructive behavior devalued the property. You may even be able to prove that they tried to sabotage the asset, or perhaps they constantly nagged you about getting rid of it. You may even be able to prove that they spent so much time on the asset, they neglected you or the family.
With the right argument and a strong enough case, you may be able to walk away from your divorce with your property where it belongs.
If you’re concerned about your property in a divorce, reach out to our firm for a free consultation. You can call us at (914) 312-4131 or contact us online.