Dolly Hinckley

Division of Marital Assets in Divorce

Mediation[1]

When getting a divorce, one of the two man decisions for a couple to make involves financial issues, including dividing assets/liabilities.  (The other main issue addresses parenting, if there are children of the marriage.) 

One question to ask when dividing assets is: what exactly is a marital asset?   There may be different definitions in various states, but probably most definitions would be that a marital asset is something that has been accumulated during the marriage, barring a gift or inheritance.  In New YorkState, it does not matter whose name the asset is in, it is marital.  In community property states, or other states perhaps, marital assets may not be treated in the same way when making a decision on the division. 

These marital assets may include the marital residence, retirement benefits, vehicles, savings, checking, brokerage accounts, household items, insurance cash value, intellectual property, businesses, and, in New York, professional licenses and practices. 

Each state has guidelines for couples to help them in splitting their marital property.   In New York, the guidelines provide for an “equitable” distribution, but not necessarily an equal one. 

Since financial disclosure is necessary, documentation for the stated value of each asset should be provided before any decision is made – bank statements, retirement benefits statements, brokerage statements, house market value, pension evaluations, business evaluations, etc.

Each individual asset does not have to be divided in half.   An amusing example would be, in the case of a car:  “you get the front half and I get the back half” of the car.   An extreme example was found in the movie, The War of the Roses, where the Roses drew a line down the middle of their house, and each lived in half.    Instead, all assets and liabilities can be put into one pot and individual assets and liabilities assigned to each party.    A simple net worth statement of assets and liabilities would easily show if the division is an equal division, or, more importantly, an equitable division in the eyes of the parties.   The net worth is obtained by subtracting the total of his/her liabilities from the total value of his/her assets, the result being the dollar net worth to each party.   Is the parties’ intent to have this come out relatively equally or is “close enough good enough”?

(If you would like a net worth spread sheet to determine net worth, please e-mail swimdolly@aol.com or call 585-385-2648.)