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Plaintiff Did Not Take Property at the Time of Divorce so Gave Up Her Rights to It


This is a case being heard in the Court of Appeals in the State of New York. The appellant in this case is Ellen Corcoran, who is the executrix of the estate of John J. O’Connell, deceased. The respondent in this case is Maureen O’Connell.

Case Background

A New York Family Lawyer said the respondent, Maureen O’Connell was married to the appellant, the deceased John J. O’Connell in 1959. The couple had eight children during their marriage. Each of the children are now emancipated. The plaintiff moved out of the marital residence in 1982 and began a divorce proceeding in New York. This divorce procedure was based on inhuman and cruel treatment.

The Supreme Court dismissed the action based on failure of proof of the allegations. A New York Custody Lawyer said the plaintiff appealed the ruling and the Appellate Court affirmed the original decision made by the Supreme Court. After this the plaintiff and defendant lived in separate homes. The children lived with the plaintiff and the decedent paid child support to her.

The plaintiff established residency in Vermont in 1993. In 1994, she began a divorce proceeding in the state of Vermont in the Family Court. The Bronx Family Lawyer the basis for the divorce was the no fault divorce law in the state of Vermont that allows a divorce when a married couple has lived apart from their spouse for six consecutive months or more.

The decedent was served with a complaint from the court in Vermont. By letter, the decedent opposed the divorce. A hearing was scheduled for the 21st of December, 1994. The decedent received notice of the hearing from the court in Vermont requesting his appearance for the divorce proceeding and division of the property. The decedent appeared in court pro se, but brought New York counsel along who remained available throughout the hearing.

The plaintiff informed the Vermont Court that only a divorce was being requested. When the court inquired about the division of the property it was explained that all of the property of the couple was located in New York and the Vermont court lacked jurisdiction.

The decedent argued that the previous divorce action from New York barred the plaintiff from seeking a divorce in Vermont. However, a Bronx Custody Lawyer said the Vermont court rejected this argument and granted the divorce to the plaintiff. Property distribution was not made by the Vermont court.

The plaintiff sought equitable distribution of the marital property in 1995. The decedent argued that this action was barred based on the fact the case was time barred. The motion by the decedent was denied and this was affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Court Decision

The plaintiff was previously awarded around one half of the marital estate, including a share of the residence, part of the defendant’s pension benefits, and various money accounts. The argument made by the defendant is that the Vermont court could have distributed the property at the time of the divorce and this argument is correct.

While the previous courts granted the plaintiff equitable distribution of the marital property, this court finds that this decision was wrong. The plaintiff did not take any property when she left the marriage and for this reason she essentially gave up her right to the share of the marital estate. The court rules in favor of the defendant and the plaintiff will not receive what the lower courts determined that she was entitled to.

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