FINANCIAL ISSUES - MARITAL PROPERTY V. SEPARATE PROPERTY
I have been married for nine years and live in new york city. Recently I added my wife's name to our primary residence as well as three investment properties. All of the properties were purchased several years before we married. The attorney who did the deed transfers advised me that in the event of divorce my wife would not be entitled to half the value of these properties but only half the appreciation of the property going forward. Another attorney told me i am totally screwed and would have been better off leaving her name off the deeds. Yet another attorney told me that after 10 years of marriage the court has discretion to include separate property in the equitable distribution calculation. Why are there so many varied opinions, are there not any clear cut laws.
Generally, property acquired prior to the marriage is separate property, and not marital property,
and would not be subject to equitable distribution. However, since you added your wife's name to the deed,
you have in fact provided her a gift of one-half of the property and she may now claim that she is a titled
owner. Had you left just your name on the property, then she may have claimed an interest in the appreciated value of the property if in fact you had some role in increasing that value. The third opinion, in which you state that after 10 years of marriage the court has discretion to include separate property in the calculation of equitable distribution, is incorrect. However, when it comes to child support or spousal support, the court can take into consideration all of the assets owned by the individual in determining what those support requirements will be.
If you are located in the New York City area, please call me at 212-370-1660 to discuss the matter at greater length.
Leonard M. Weiner, Esq./Divorce Solutions