New York Judge Criticizes Spouse’s “Emotional Agenda” in Proceeding for Division of Marital Property

Samuel D. Ehrhart [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsA New York divorce proceeding can be a difficult and stressful process. While many resources are available to assist the parties with finding an amicable resolution, and to help deal with the emotional difficulties of divorce, the courtroom is not one of those places. Most divorce cases result in some sort of settlement, but if the parties cannot agree, the matter goes to trial for the court to decide. Bringing too much emotion into the courtroom usually only makes judges annoyed or angry. As one party in a proceeding before the Suffolk County Supreme Court, G.T. v. A.T., learned last year, it can also impact the outcome of the case. An experienced family law attorney with knowledge of New York’s laws and legal system can help identify the important issues in a divorce case.

Under New York law, a court may not grant a divorce until the parties have resolved multiple issues, including the “equitable distribution of marital property,” or the court orders a resolution. In G.T. v. A.T., the wife filed for divorce in 2011 with the assistance of counsel, and the husband represented himself as defendant. The court criticized the husband for using his “self-represented status as both a sword and shield” throughout the proceeding.

The case ultimately went to trial over twelve days spread out over a period of several months, from June until September 2013. The court described the evidence presented at trial by the husband as “minimal,” “fueled by his own emotional agenda,” and “oftentimes…devoid of probative value.” His 39-page posttrial memorandum, according to the court, contained only three or four pages’ worth of issues addressed at trial. This caused significant delay in the court’s ability to make a ruling. The only issues addressed by the court in its order were the division of debt and personal property and the apportionment of legal fees.

The parties were married in 1987 and had two children, who were ages 21 and 16 at the time the court granted the divorce. According to the court, the wife had gone back to school in 2005 and earned a computer programming degree. As of the order date, she was making about $46,000 per year. The husband last worked full-time in 2005 as an engineer, earning about $90,000 per year. During cross-examination, he admitted that he could have found a new job after losing that one, but chose instead to try to make money in the real estate market. This led to the parties accumulating substantial debt.

The court approved an agreement regarding the division of real estate holdings and associated debts. It based most of the rest of its order on evidence provided by the plaintiff. Each party was ordered to pay any debts incurred after the date the divorce action commenced, and the court divided the debts incurred before that time roughly equally. Based on his employment experience and potential, as well as other factors, including his role in delaying the case, the court ordered that the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s legal fees.

People who have significant wealth or possessions they hold dear when they enter a marriage must handle those assets with care. In a New York divorce proceeding, they need the help of an hardworking and dedicated family law attorney to protect their assets and help them understand their rights and responsibilities. Ingrid Gherman has practiced family law in the greater New York City area for the past thirty years. To schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case, contact us today online or at (212) 941-0767.

More Blog Posts:

Prenuptial Agreement Requires Couple to Litigate Divorce in Israel, not New York, New York Divorce Attorney Blog, January 16, 2015

Husband Loses Millions in Separate Property Credits Due to Prenuptial Agreement’s Use of ‘The’, New York Divorce Attorney Blog, December 18, 2014

When New York Property is at Risk of Equitable Distribution in Divorce, New York Divorce Attorney Blog, December 9, 2014

Photo credit: Samuel D. Ehrhart [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.