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Separate Versus Marital Property: Understanding the Difference

Getting married means agreeing to share your life with another person. It also means agreeing to share property: a home, furniture, vehicles and bank accounts. This merging of assets is a natural byproduct of marriage. However, if a couple decides to part ways and divorce, it can be difficult to split these items. 

Under New York law, divorcing couple’s property is divided under a standard known as equitable division. What this means is that the marital property of a couple is divided between them in a way that a judge deems fair. While this may be an equal division, is it not necessarily one. Instead, judges will look to the circumstances of the marriage and divorce as well as the relative financial positions of each of the spouses to make a determination as to what would be equitable. 

Marital property is any property that you and your spouse own together. This may include your house, money in a joint checking account or the furnishings of your home. For the most part, items purchased during a marriage that both spouses made use of an enjoyed is consider marital property subject to equitable division at divorce. 

While marital property is divided equitably, each spouse retains a personal interest in his or her own separate property. Separate property is property that belongs to one spouse and has never been considered communal property. This includes items that a spouse owned prior to the marriage, gifts that only one of the spouse received, separate inheritances and property acquired by one of the spouses with the intention of keeping it separate (such as clothing). Separate property is never included in the property divided between the spouses and remains in the personal control of the respective owner. 

To learn more about how property is divided in New York or if you need legal assistance related to your divorce, contact the skilled family law attorneys at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates.

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