Equitable Distribution Questions


#1

My wife and I were married in the late 80s. She is in the financial services industry, has worked continuously, currently earns just over $300k with a new job, and has about $500K in her IRA. I am a teacher earning almost $50K, with about $120K in my IRA, and have taken some time off to care for the kids. We have one child in college and one in High School.
In the early 90s I inherited $250K of securities from my grandfather. We used some of this money to put the down payment on a home (in NY) in the early 90s. In 2002, we sold the home at a substantial profit. We now own a home in NC that we purchased in 2003 and may or may not be worth its original purchase price. I strongly urged her to sell before 2007 because her bonus pay had been dropping significantly and we were losing money. She refused to consider selling. Everything we have is in joint accounts (to my knowledge). My wife handles the finances. I am very concerned about the financial consequences of divorcing. I am I entitled to any of my inheritance? Do I just get the principle back or would I also be entitled to interest? Am I entitled to any additional money due to lost years of work experience and pension to care for my children? Will judges discriminate against me because I am in a gender role reversal? Thank you.


#2

First, separate funds are those earned before the marriage, after the date of separation, gifts from someone other than your wife, or inherited. If you can prove that money is separate, it usually remains separate.

Now, the catch is that no matter where money is from, if you take money and place it in real estate, like your house, and it is jointly titled, the court will “presume” that you “gifted” the funds to the marriage by putting them in a house that is jointly titled. This is a hard presumption to overcome. Because the amount of money is so large, $250k, you could certainly argue in an equitable distribution trial that you should be entitled to an unequal distribution of the house. You should certainly consider consulting with an attorney about this matter before you agree to any property settlement.

From these facts, it appears that you have an excellent chance to be awarded post-separation support and alimony. That would be another option for you to consider. If your ex refuses to agree to pay such support, then you should consult with an attorney about filing for these claims in court. You will not receive additional money from lost years of work experience and pension, however, spousal support is the best way for you to attempt to get some money from your supporting spouse. A judge should not discriminate against you because of gender role reversal. The statute just says you need to be a dependent spouse, not a dependent wife. More and more men are in your situation than in the past, so you likely wouldn’t be the first man that your judge would need to decide alimony for. Best of luck.