IT IS IMPORTANT TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN VEHICLE USE AND FINAL OWNERSHIP IN THE EARLY STAGES OF A NEW YORK DIVORCE CASE
H. Michael Stern, Esq., a Long Island, New York divorce, matrimonial and family law attorney and mediator with over 30 years of experience suggests that New York residents use caution in entering into stipulations in court regarding vehicle use, and final ownership before trial.
In a 2016 case determined by the Appellate Division, 2nd Department in New York, the Appellate Court determined that where the parties stipulated that each would retain his or her vehicle, there would be no payment for 50% of the value from one party to the other. Thus, before any agreement is made in court, it is important to know whether there is a meaningful differential in unencumbered equity between the husband’s vehicle and the wife’s vehicle. If so, then a decision should be made whether to agree only to use of each vehicle pending trial as opposed to determining title to the parties respective vehicles. Oftentimes, parties are asked to decide this issue reflexively early in the case (such as at the preliminary conference) and no choice (use or title) is offered. If the vehicles have sharply different values, then one should consider deciding only on use before trial as opposed to securing title. An agreement settling the case will also resolve the vehicle use or title issue; a trial may not be required.
Allow me to offer an example, the husband owns a 1998 Porsche 911 and the wife just bought a brand new 2017 Mercedes C Class which is titled in her name. Both vehicles are paid off with no liens. Should the wife agree that each party retains title to his or her own vehicle? The answer is not so simple, as it all depends on the mileage and condition of the 1998 Porsche. The older car may be an appreciating asset worth considerably more than its original price. The newer car is depreciating in value. Accordingly, a pre trial appraisal of the older car would answer the valuation question. This could result in the wife being entitled to and receiving a payment for a portion of the Porsche’s value in addition to retaining her new car. Thus, whether one agrees to pre trial use of a vehicle, or to a final disposition regarding vehicle ownership, is an important distinction not to be taken lightly in the early stages of a New York divorce case.
Focusing on the needs of the client and the results sought have always been a hallmark of my Nassau County, Long Island practice over the past 30 years.
Feel free to contact me, H. Michael Stern, Esq., a Nassau County, Long Island divorce, child custody and family law attorney, if you are interested in discussing your matrimonial, divorce or family law matter at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 516 747 2290.
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Written by: H. Michael Stern Esq., New York Divorce Lawyer