Divorce and Equitable Distribution Where There Are Hidden Assets, Part II
by Gary Port /
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February 2, 2008
One of the biggest questions in New York divorce actions involves hiding assets. Many times one spouse controls all the money issues and the other spouse is utterly ignorant of the finances. Other times, property “mysteriously” vanishes without a trace. The challenge for the innocent spouse is how to get his/her fair share.
It is very important to remember that New York uses equitable distribution to divide assets, not title. Under New York divorce law, the courts are not concerned with whose name is in the deed to a piece of property or even on a bank account. The courts will look to a true owner.
This is critical when property has been transfered in order to cheat a spouse in a divorce. For example, if the husband owns a house in his own name, but transfers it to his brother around the time or just before the divorce, the court will reach back and provide the wife her share. The court can also adjust the scale and then award the innocent spouse more than 50 percent. In Niland v. Niland, 291 A.D.2d 876, court did just that. Finding a fraudulent transfer of property, the court awarded the wife 60 percent of the asset. Remember, equitable distribution is not “equal.” Therefore, the court can adjust the scales in the interest of fairness.