Your Spouse Lives on His Parents’ Money: How Will This Affect Asset Division in Your Divorce?
As divorce lawyers, we know that every couple’s financial circumstances are unique. One situation that may arise is where one spouse is primarily supported by his or her parents. This might be called the problem of the freeloading spouse. If your spouse doesn’t have income or assets in his or her own name, are you entitled to a portion of the support he or she has been receiving from parents?
The answer to this question is the same as the answer to all property-division related questions in divorce: New York’s law of equitable distribution allows a judge to consider all relevant factors in determining who gets what.
The court will start by defining what property belongs to each spouse individually (separate property) versus what belongs to the couple (marital property). Only the latter is subject to division. Generally, separate property is anything a spouse owned before the marriage. It also includes some assets received during the marriage, such as inheritances or gifts.
The money your in-laws give to your spouse during your marriage could be considered a gift, which means it is your spouse’s separate property. As a result, that money is not subject to division. However, if your in-laws gave your spouse an appreciating asset like a house that you later contributed to renovating or improving, then the increase in value that occurred during your marriage could indeed be subject to division.
Some clients ask if they have the right to sue their in-laws as part of the divorce if the in-laws are the ones financially supporting the freeloading spouse. The answer here is no. New York divorce law is centered on the couple and any children involved. It does not allow in-laws to be pulled into the controversy.
However, the court has the power to consider evidence that your spouse put assets in his or her parents’ names deliberately to keep them out of equitable distribution. As in any case where hidden or fraudulently transferred assets are discovered, the court can decide they are part of the marital property.
There can also be significant conflict about child custody, child support and alimony. The freeloading spouse may try to get alimony, which is normally awarded when one spouse doesn’t have sufficient income. However, if the non-working spouse is getting substantial support from his or her parents, that may be considered in determining alimony. We encourage you to use our child support and alimony calculator to find out how much you may need to pay given your personal situation.
To resolve the complex financial issues that can arise in a divorce, you’ll need an experienced attorney on your side. The team at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C., is ready to help. Call 1.631.479.3839 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation. We serve Suffolk County, Nassau County and all of Long Island.