New York State is perhaps the state with the most peculiar divorce laws. It was the last state to allow no-fault divorces and it has a seemingly strange equitable distribution law that stemmed from the O’Brien 1985 divorce case. This law allows degrees, professional licenses and even individual talents to be “split” in a divorce, according to a December 23, 2012 Wall Street Journal article.

A 2009 case, in which Kenneth Quarty and Tanya Finch got a divorce, brought up and upheld the issues presented by the O’Brien decision. The O’Brien decision created the “equitable distribution” standing that meant that marital assets should be divided equitably between the spouses. If one spouse contributed to or helped the other spouse obtain a degree during the marriage, then after divorce that spouse would be entitled to money that the degree was estimated to generate.

Mr. Quarty, by New York State law, will be given, through monthly payments, a set payment that is a portion of what Ms. Finch is expected to earn as a nurse practitioner. She completed her degree while the two were married and according to Mr. Quarty’s lawyer, he gave “emotional and physical support.” He also “frequently took care of [the couple’s] daughter.”

This law, in comparison to nearly every other state, is antiquated. It was designed, along with some other New York State laws, to protect women, who could have ended up much worse of after a divorce if they were not working. Now, with more women in the workforce and more women moving up the career ladder, the laws are not as necessary and can also work to a woman’s disadvantage if she is the breadwinner and has a degree or license.

In 2004, a commission in New York thought that the law should be taken off the books. A second commission will soon issue a report and there are many lawyers who hope that the commission makes the same recommendation.

If you need to find out more about divorce laws or if you are ready to start your divorce, contact the law office of Jayson Lutzky, P.C. today. Mr. Lutzky has over 29 years of experience practicing law. He offers free in person consultations, so call (800) 660-5299 or visit