Family Law

NY Appeals Court OKs $12K Divorce Award for Value of Spouse's Notre Dame Law Degree

A New York trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding a husband only 10 percent of the value assigned to his wife’s law degree from Notre Dame University despite his contributions as the family’s primary wage-earner and the child care he provided while his wife was in law school, a state appeals court has ruled.

Likewise, there was a solid basis for the trial court to agree with an expert for Victoria Esposito-Shea that the law degree had a value of $126,000, based on what it added to her earning potential, explained the Third Department of New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division in its April 5 opinion (PDF).

Bryan Shea’s expert had argued that the value of the degree exceeded $250,000. His wife passed the state bar exam and was licensed to practice after the divorce case began in 2006.

Among other considerations in reaching an equitable distribution of the assets of the couple, who had been married since 1991, “the wife’s own efforts in obtaining her law degree cannot be minimized,” the court wrote. “For example, she worked in part-time positions throughout the marriage and was employed during the summer months while attending law school. She earned merit scholarships and paid a significant part of her law school tuition with an inheritance she received during the marriage.”

Hat tip: New York Law Journal (sub. req.)

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