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Rockland & Westchester County Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Divorce > Appeals Court Considers Equitable Distribution of Marital Lumber Sale

Appeals Court Considers Equitable Distribution of Marital Lumber Sale


New York is an equitable distribution state. That means that assets are not necessarily divided equally, but rather, according to what is equitable to both parties. In determining what is equitable, the court will consider a number of matters including the relative earning power of both parties pursuant to a divorce. If one party would be left unfairly destitute due to a divorce settlement agreement, then the court can intervene and award the party more of the marital estate than the 50% that is usual in these matters.

Generally speaking, when the parties’ earning powers are roughly equal, the court will divide the marital estate in half. In the case of Kotsakis v. Kotsakis, that’s exactly what happened. The couple had a marital property in the form of a lumber yard. They couple was able to sell the proceeds of the lumber yard for $100,000. The plaintiff was awarded 50% or $50,000 of the proceeds and appealed because they thought they deserved more. In this case, the appeals court denied their appeal.

Background of the case 

The parties were married in 1964 and divorced in 2008. Following a nonjury trial, the Supreme Court issued a judgment of divorce, which awarded the defendant the sum of $50,000. This sum represents 50% of the proceeds of the plaintiff’s sale of timber from the parties’ 80-acre property in Salem. The plaintiff appealed from that portion of the judgment under the belief that they were entitled to a greater portion of that money.

When it comes to matters of equitable distribution, when the court is forced to decide the matter for the couple, it can be very hard to overturn its ruling once it is entered. A trial court is vested with broad discretion in making an equitable distribution of marital property. Unless it can be shown that the trial court improvidently exercised that discretion, its determination generally cannot be disturbed.

In this case, the appeals court determined that the trial court did not breach its discretion when considering the matter of equitable distribution of the lumber proceeds. The appeals court determined that the trial court providently exercised its discretion in awarding the defendant 50% of the proceeds of the sale of timber from the marital property. The court relied on testimony at trial which indicated that the plaintiff received $100,000 from the sale of the timber after the commencement of the auction, and the record revealed no basis to disturb the court’s credibility determination.

Ultimately, the appeals court found no breach of discretion and could not overturn the award if they wanted to. The plaintiff was forced to turn over $50,000 to the defendant as ordered by the court.

Talk to a Rockland County Divorce Lawyer Today 

The Law Office of Robert S. Sunshine represents the interests of Rockland County residents who are pursuing a divorce. We can help you with all aspects of the divorce process including equitable distribution of the marital estate, alimony, child custody, and child support. Call our Westchester County family lawyers today to schedule an appointment and we can begin guiding you to your next steps right away.



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