Perhaps the most complicated and, potentially, difficult part of most divorce cases in New York State is splitting up the couple’s assets. This includes the furniture and the record collection, but more importantly the couple must split up their bank accounts, real estate and similarly valuable items.

Most states, including New York, use the equitable distribution system for division of assets during divorce. This means that when the court must divide the property, the judge’s role is to do so in fair manner. Note that this does not mean “equal” distribution — only that it be fair to both parties.

Under state law, the judges are required to consider several factors when deciding which ex-spouse gets what. These include relevant matters like what property each spouse brought into the marriage; their age and health; whether one of them will need the house to raise the kid in; and whether one of the exes will lose their inheritance, pension and/or health insurance as a result of the divorce.

Besides assets, debts can also be distributed during this process. Things like outstanding car loans and mortgages may be as important to the financial future of the former spouses as assets.

If the spouses are able to negotiate a settlement on their own, or through alternative dispute resolution, they can take control of the process and work together to determine the fate of their marital assets and debts. This requires the ability to set aside your differences, which can be difficult for many divorcing couples, so court is another viable option.