Published on:

Court Determines that Equitable Distribution Does not Terminate Upon Death of One Spouse


This is a case before the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department. The respondent in the matter is Harold J. Peterson. A New York Family Lawyer said the defendants and appellant of the case is Joel Goldberg, et al. The case before the court involves the issue of whether a cause of action for equitable distribution of an estate can be made by a person who has been granted a divorce in a foreign state prior to the death of the party in question.

Case Facts

Harriet Goldberg is the decedent of the plaintiff and lived as husband and wife with the defendant Joel Goldberg. The couple separated and the husband left the home in New York to live in Florida. The wife completed an instant action for divorce and ancillary relief in 1986. The husband procured an ex parte divorce judgment in the state of Florida in 1987. This effectively terminated the status of the couple as husband and wife. The husband remarried after the divorce was final. The divorce court in Florida did not attempt to make a settlement of the ancillary property issues that were relevant in the marriage being terminated.

When the husband obtained the judgment for divorce in Florida he moved in the Rockland County Supreme Court for a summary judgment to dismiss the complaint made against him by his former wife. A New York Custody Lawyer said the court granted the motion and dismissed the cause of action for divorce. However, the court converted the action for an equitable distribution of the estate following a foreign judgment for divorce.

When his former wife passed away and a party plaintiff was entered for the instant action the defendant husband moved for a re-argument of the case. He argued that the plaintiff did not have a cause of action relatable to the distribution of the former marital assets. He argues that upon the death of his former wife her share of the assets and the former marital residence should be vested to him entirely.

Court Discussion and Decision

The court has reviewed the facts of this case and looked at cases that are similar to this one. It is found that after a divorce where equitable distribution of an estate has been made, the determination of this equitable distribution does not end upon the death of one of the spouses.

The husband procured an ex parte judgment for divorce in the state of Florida. When he proceeded with this action and the divorce was granted the marital status of the couple was dissolved. A Nassau Family Lawyer said that along with this decree an equitable distribution was vested through a foreign judgment. This right was provided with the action of the divorce during the case in New York.

The original ruling made in the Supreme Court of the state of New York denied the husband’s motion for equitable distribution. We find that the court ruled correctly in this matter. A Nassau County Custody Lawyer said the wife had every right to divide the estate as she saw fit upon her death. Accordingly, the court rules to deny the motion made by the husband for equitable distribution of the estate. The appeal in this matter is denied.

If you are in need of any type of legal advice for a divorce proceeding, separation proceeding, estate litigation or any other legal issue, contact the law offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates. We have offices located throughout the city of New York for your convenience. You may contact us at any time to set up an appointment for a free consultation.

Contact Information