The First Department determined the wife in a divorce proceeding, Wendy, should have been allowed to intervene in an action against her husband, Hugh, by plaintiff, Pensmore, seeking the turnover and sale of personal property to enforce a money judgment. Wendy submitted proof supporting her claim that the personal property in her possession was her separate property, not marital property, and therefore could not be reached by the creditor:
As a preliminary matter, we agree with Wendy that because Hugh was not in physical possession of the property which is the subject of the turnover order, the enforcement proceeding should have been brought as a special proceeding pursuant to CPLR 5225(b). Wendy was required to have been named as a party and separately served with the petition, because she is the one in actual possession of the disputed property (CPLR 5225[b] McKinney's Practice Commentary, 5225.5). Although Pensmore did not properly name Wendy, the error could have been cured by permitting Wendy to intervene, so long as the burden of proof remained on the judgment creditor (Pensmore) to establish that the judgment debtor (Hugh) has an interest in the property that is superior to the person in actual possession (Wendy) … .
The trial court was required to hold a hearing to determine whether the personal property in Wendy's possession is her sole separate property or marital property. * * *
While … an inchoate right to equitably share in marital property cannot be protected against third party creditors of a debtor spouse … , the same rule does not hold true for separate property of the non-debtor spouse. Domestic Relations Law § 236[B] provides that “all property acquired by either or both spouses during the marriage and before the execution of a separation agreement or the commencement of a matrimonial action, regardless of the form in which title is held” is marital property (Domestic Relations Law § 236 [B][c]…). There is an exception, however, for “property acquired before marriage or property acquired by bequest, devise, or descent, or gift from a party other than the spouse;” such property is the separate property of that spouse (DRL § 236 [B][d]…). Separate property, is not “marital property” and it is not equitably distributed in a divorce action … . Although neither spouse has a vested interest in any property that is otherwise marital until it is distributed in a divorce action, separate property, unless transmuted or commingled, retains its character as the property of the spouse who owns it both during and after the marriage … . Pensmore Invs., LLC v Gruppo, Levey & Co., 2016 NY Slip Op 01789, 1st Dept 3-15-16
FAMILY LAW (SEPARATE PROPERTY OF A NON-DEBTOR SPOUSE, AS OPPOSED TO MARITAL PROPERTY, CAN NOT BE REACHED BY A JUDGMENT CREDITOR)/PERSONAL PROPERTY (SEPARATE PROPERTY OF A NON-DEBTOR SPOUSE, AS OPPOSED TO MARITAL PROPERTY, CAN NOT BE REACHED BY A JUDGMENT CREDITOR)/DEBTOR-CREDITOR (SEPARATE PROPERTY OF A NON-DEBTOR SPOUSE, AS OPPOSED TO MARITAL PROPERTY, CAN NOT BE REACHED BY A JUDGMENT CREDITOR)/CIVIL PROCEDURE (NON-DEBTOR SPOUSE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO INTERVENE IN ACTION TO ENFORCE JUDGMENT AGAINST DEBTOR-HUSBAND)/INTERVENE, MOTION TO (NON-DEBTOR SPOUSE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO INTERVENE IN ACTION TO ENFORCE JUDGMENT AGAINST DEBTOR-HUSBAND)