What is Equitable Distribution?



A court will look at all the relevant factors and distribute the marital property according to a sense of fairness based on the unique facts and circumstances of the case. Courts in New York have great discretion in distributing marital property. As a consequence of this discretion, it is important to have an attorney who sheds light on the most important facts in your case.

In determining what fairness requires, courts in New York are not required to divide marital property equally. Instead, courts focus on fairness.

In a case almost two decades ago, Schiffmacher v. Schiffmacher (2005), a court in the New York Appellate Division held that the wife was properly awarded 70 percent of the value of the marital savings and investment accounts because the husband had better future income prospects given his advanced degrees. In other words, the husband was awarded substantially less marital property beause the court reasoned that he was more likely to “make up” the money in the future. In contrast, the wife had more limited prospects which compelled the courts to provide her with enough to compensate for her more modest future income.

In many cases, however, New York courts do distribute marital property in a close to equal manner. In one New York case, Lipovsky v. Lipovsky (2000), the New York Appellate Division held the property was appropriately distributed where it was in an equal manner. In this case, the court emphasized that in long-term marriages property should be distributed equally. Specifically, the New York court stressed that both New Yorkers made significant contributions to the marriage. For instance, the husband had worked long-hours while the wife had taken care of the home and raised the children. The contributions of both parties led the court to conclude that an equal distribution of the marital property was necessary.

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