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An important trend in New York matrimonial law

Where previously the New York equitable distribution law divided the assets of a divorcing couple without regard to whose fault it was that a marriage was ending in divorce, New York County Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline Silberman has come out with a series of rulings that appear to mark a trend towards severe financial punishment for an abusive spouse.

In DeSilva v. DeSilva, Justice Silberman found that a wife was entitled to all of the couple’s marital property, which would otherwise have been divided between the two parties, because the husband had verbally and physically abused the wife. This decision follows on Justice Silberman’s ruling in Havell v. Islam, in which the First Department affirmed awarding 95% of the marital property to a wife whose husband had attacked her with a barbell, and told her children not to bother helping her because she was “already dead.”

The First Department approved the concept, writing that the husband’s marital misconduct could be used as a factor in dividing property when it was “so egregious or uncivilized as to bespeak of a blatant disregard of the marital relationship.” The highest court in New York, the Court of Appeals, refused to hear an appeal of the First Department’s ruling.


As reported in the Journal News, there’s been a shakeup in the Westchester County courts involving the judges who hear divorce cases.

Call Kristen Browde: 914 266-9222