I have previously written about equitable distribution issues here and here. One of the most important issues that divorce attorneys have to address in dealing with equitable distribution is division of businesses or enhanced earning capacity arising as a result of acquisition of a professional degree or a license by one of the spouses.
In distributing marital property of almost every variety, the courts have focused on the relative significance of the non-titled spouse’s contribution toward the marriage, which would almost always result in equal or almost equal distribution. However, with respect to distribution of business interests and enhanced earning capacity, as of late, the courts have focused on the degree to which the non-titled spouse’s efforts contributed toward the acquisition of each specific asset.
In the past, the non-titled spouse’s contributions to the other party’s business, career or degree, usually resulted in equal distribution of those assets. However, the recent trend in court decisions has been to grant the non-titled spouse less than one half of the asset.
This has been a trend state-wide and has been followed by the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, which is located here in Rochester, New York, and to which decisions from Allegany, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates Counties are appealed to.
As a result, the non-titled spouses and their divorce lawyers have an uphill fight if they try to obtain a substantial share of such assets as a spouse’s business, educational degrees or professional licenses.