Drafting divorce settlement agreement provisions to dispose of the marital home is not easy. Anticipating how things will play out can be very difficult.

In some cases, one spouse may be remaining in the home with the children for a stated period of time, or until a stated event (such as the children’s graduation). How are bills to be paid in the interim? Will either spouse be entitled to credits?

What will be the procedures when the time/event happens? At the end of that period of “exclusive occupancy” (or perhaps immediately), the parties will be selling the home. Alternatively, one party may want to buy out the other. If the home is to be sold to a stranger, how is the broker to be selected, if there is to be one? How is the initial listing price determined? Must a certain bid be accepted? What happens if there are no bids?

If one spouse wants to buy out the other, how is the other’s interest to be valued? Should the amount of a broker’s commission be factored in? May one spouse have a “right of first refusal,” the right to match a bid from a third party? How will that work?

Take the April 28, 2022 decision of the Appellate Division, Third Department, in Martin v. Martin. There, the parties’ 2012 divorce settlement agreement granted the husband the right to buy out the wife’s interest. The agreement provided that if the husband elected that option, the parties would obtain three appraisals, The husband would pay the wife half the “mean” (average) of those three appraised values minus a commission.

Continue Reading Agreements to Dispose of Marital Home Interests

For the second time in six weeks the Appellate Division, Third Department, reduced an award of spousal maintenance for the failure to adjust for the distributive award based on the husband’s business. In its October 22, 2015 decision in Gifford v. Gifford, the Appellate Division, Third Department, modified a maintenance award because of the trial court’s failure to adjust the husband’s income for computation purposes to account for the distributive award to the wife based on the husband’s business. In September, in Mula v. Mula, the Third Department held that once valued, the income attributable to ownership of a professional practice may not also be the basis on which to award spousal maintenance (see, the September 14, 2015 blog post).

In Gifford, the parties in this divorce had stipulated a resolution of Equitable Distribution issues, including a $210,000 award to the wife based on the value of the husband’s geotechnical engineer business. After a trial on maintenance on counsel fees, Supreme Court Justice Vincent J. Reilly awarded the wife nondurational maintenance of $6,000 per month from January 1, 2014 through January 31, 2020, $3,000 per month from February 1, 2020 through June 1, 2022, and $800 per month thereafter, terminating upon either party’s death or the wife’s remarriage.

The Third Department held that Justice Reilley erred in utilizing the husband’s total average annual income of $332,431 for purposes of calculating a maintenance award, without making an adjustment for the distributive award of the company.

Continue Reading Double-Dipping: The Interrelationship of Business-Based Distributive Awards and Spousal Support