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How does New York handle the distribution of assets in a long-term marriage?

Distribution of Assets in Long-Term Marriages in New York

When a long-term marriage in New York comes to an end, the distribution of marital assets is a critical aspect that needs to be addressed. In the State of New York, this process is governed by the Equitable Distribution Law, which aims to divide marital property fairly but not necessarily equally between spouses upon divorce. Understanding how assets are distributed can help individuals navigate the complexities of divorce proceedings and plan for their futures accordingly.

The cornerstone principle of equitable distribution is that marital property should be divided in a way that is equitable, or fair, based on the circumstances of the marriage and each spouse's contributions. Unlike some other states that follow community property laws dividing assets 50/50, New York courts consider several factors to determine what is fair in each case.

Factors Influencing Equitable Distribution

Several factors may influence the court's decision on how to distribute assets, including:

Each case is unique and courts have considerable discretion in applying these factors to reach an equitable division.

Marital Property vs. Separate Property

In New York, there's a distinction between marital property and separate property. Marital property includes most assets acquired during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on it. This can include real estate, retirement accounts, businesses, and more. Separate property includes assets acquired before marriage or through inheritance or gift during the marriage, which are generally excluded from equitable distribution.

Cases Illustrating Asset Distribution

A landmark case that illustrates New York's approach to asset distribution in long-term marriages is O'Brien v. O'Brien, where the courts recognized a medical degree earned during the marriage as marital property subject to equitable distribution. Another notable case is Grumet v. Grumet, which demonstrated that even intangible assets such as professional licenses could be considered when dividing marital property.


The distribution of assets in long-term marriages in New York is a complex process that requires careful consideration of many factors. The goal is always to reach an outcome that is fair and just for both parties involved. Those going through a divorce should seek legal advice to understand their rights and ensure their interests are protected throughout this process.