H.T. v. M.T. (Supreme Court, Queens County)

Defendant-wife sought equitable distribution on several of the properties titled solely in plaintiff-husband’s name that were obtained by him prior to the parties’ marriage.  The wife claimed that the parties had a common law marriage prior to their marriage in 2006 because they were in romantic relationship at the time and intended to marry which created a constructive trust with regard to the properties.  Furthermore because she was aware of all the real estate purchases that husband undertook prior to the marriage and because they were titled solely in his name, he was unjustly enriched.

The court found her arguments unpersuasive.  New York state laws and statute “do not provide for a finding of common law marriage to determine equitable distribution.”  The wife did not carry her burden in proving a constructive trust because, although there was a romantic relationship in the years prior to the marriage and although the wife did know of the property transactions, the husband purchased all assets, except a time share, with his separate property and the wife did not participate or lose any of her income with relation to these investment properties.  The court was convinced that the husband therefore understood his rights as to separate property as did the wife.  Throughout the marriage, the parties had no joint ventures, did not file joint tax returns or have joint bank accounts.  Each party’s income was deposited into separate accounts and used for marital expenses separately.