The more property a married couple shares, the more complicated divorce proceedings will become. More property means more reasons to fight and details to negotiate.
In New York, couples usually have to share marital assets in accordance with equitable distribution rules. However, there are some assets and accounts that adults may not need to share with their spouses in a New York divorce.
These assets are one spouse’s separate property, which they can protect from property division proceedings under New York law. What assets might be your separate property when you divorce?
Assets from before the marriage
The property that you already owned before marriage is separate property. You won’t have to share those assets with your spouse in the divorce unless they can show that they helped maintain or improve those assets, thereby contributing to their current value.
In fact, if you liquidate your separate property during the marriage and use those resources to purchase other assets, what you purchase also has protection as separate property unless you commingled those new assets with the marital estate.
Assets received as an inheritance
Loved ones may want to leave property to you when they die. Provided that the inheritance is solely in your name, the inheritance is your separate property that your ex can’t claim.
As with assets owned before your marriage, commingling may give your spouse a claim to your inherited property.
Property you protected with a marital agreement
Did your spouse demand a prenuptial agreement before you got married, so you asked to protect your pension or 401K? Did you go through a rocky time and draft a postnuptial agreement where you divided assets and set some of your property aside as separate property for divorce purposes? If you have a valid and enforceable marital agreement, the property designated as separate in that document will not be subject to division in your divorce proceeding.
Knowing what property you can protect from division in a high-asset New York divorce can help you have realistic expectations for court proceedings or collaborative negotiations with your spouse.