NY: Minister Husband’s Church: a Marital Asset?

A married Brooklyn pastor has built a very successful congregation during his 30 year marriage.

His wife, who is divorcing him, contends that he runs and profits from the church just the same as though it were a business.

Hardly a first time scenario in the news.

But the wife’s contention that the husband’s church should be treated like a marital asset, subject to equitable distribution in the divorce, is a rare divorce tactic.

And, at least in New York, what is a first is the judge’s appointment of a forensic accountant to examine the church’s books and operations, with a view toward valuing and equitably distributing the church.

The wife alleges that the pastor runs a catering business out of the million dollar church building, applies collected donations to personal expenses (including a mistress), and determines his own salary at will.

In other words, her position is: if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck …

The wife also claims that she provided $50,000 in “startup money” for the church business. The Husbands responds that it was a “donation”.

This case certainly opens up a can of worms that could have far-reaching ramifications for so-called nonprofits involved in divorce.

Who knows who will be following more closely, divorce attorneys or the IRS?

Read more in this New York Daily News article: Grace Christian Church backdrop for pastor’s ugly divorce and this Associated Press article: Pastor’s Wife: Church Is a Divorce Asset.

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