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Rockland & Westchester County Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Family > “Bifurcated” Divorce Highlights Issues Related to Equitable Distribution

“Bifurcated” Divorce Highlights Issues Related to Equitable Distribution


In a divorce case surfacing from the Second District Court of Appeals, New York, the parties were married in Queens County in 1982 shortly after purchasing real property in Rego Park. The plaintiff commenced an action for divorce in 2007, but her action was dismissed for failure to comply with specific deadlines. The plaintiff then moved to Virginia where she continued to reside after her separation from the defendant. The plaintiff obtained a divorce decree from the State of Virginia that stated that the defendant had no nexus with the State of Virginia and that the plaintiff was seeking a “bifurcated divorce.” The plaintiff hoped that all issues related to the equitable distribution of marital property would be handled by the New York courts. The Virginia decree granted the plaintiff an absolute divorce but reserved all issues related to equitable distribution for the New York Courts.

 However, the plaintiff failed to commence an action for equitable distribution in New York within the six-year statute of limitations. Instead, she commenced the action in 2016 seeking to split the Rego Park property and have the proceeds distributed to her.

 The defendant moves to dismiss the complaint 

Upon receiving the complaint filed by the plaintiff, the defendant moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the property was held as tenancy by the entirety and, therefore, could not be partitioned by the court. While the courts will convert a tenancy by the entirety to a tenancy in common by divorce decree, he argued that since the divorce decree was part of a foreign judgment from Virginia, it had no effect on the ownership of the New York State Property. So, the ownership remained as tenancy by the entirety. In 2018, the court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss. The plaintiff subsequently appealed.

The appeal 

In this case, the appeal centered around whether or not the court had jurisdiction to convert the property from a tenancy by the entirety to a tenancy in common. If the court considered the property to be held as a tenancy by the entirety, then it did not have the legal authority to “split” the property. Tenancy by the entirety is a legal concept in which a married couple shares property ownership. It is reserved only for married couples and has several benefits when it comes to creditor actions. This means that each spouse has an equal and undivided interest in the property.

Although the plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the property was held as tenants in common, the deed, which was attached to the complaint, established that they had taken the title as tenants by the entirety. The Virginia decree was held to have no personal jurisdiction over the defendant. The decree did not affect his property rights in New York.

Ultimately, the appeals court sided with the defendant and granted his motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint.

Talk to a Westchester County, New York Divorce Attorney Today

 The Law Office of Robert S. Sunshine represents the interests of those pursuing a divorce in New York State. With decades of experience, we can help vigorously advocate for your interests when dissolving your marriage. Call our Westchester County family lawyers today to schedule an appointment, and learn more about how we can help.



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