Areas of Practice
HOW ARE ASSETS & PROPERTY DIVIDED DURING A DIVORCE?
A divorce is going to be a stressful time on a number of levels. Even if the cause of the divorce itself is amicable and there’s no hostility, there’s a lot of major life changes to go through, including starting a new life without the other person. That new life also includes a division of assets and property, but how exactly does this work? Many people have likely heard horror stories about bitter divorces where a lot of arguing and anger have centered on who gets what, especially when it comes to custody of children. But putting the delicate issue of child custody aside for now, let’s look at more material possessions. What happens to them when you divorce?
One of the single biggest factors that can affect how smoothly-or not-a division of assets goes is whether or not a prenuptial agreement was in place. A prenuptial agreement may be viewed as unromantic or even cynical by some, but it can make a huge difference in how complex or simple divorce proceedings may be. Prenuptial agreements are contracts that are struck before a marriage takes place that carefully outline what assets will go to which party in the event of a divorce. It is, in other words, a ” worst case scenario” failsafe to smooth over ownership issues if a marriage doesn’t work out.
Prenuptial agreements play a huge role in divorce asset division if they are already in place. Challenging a prenuptial agreement is extremely difficult to do in most cases. Unless one or the other person signing the agreement was not honest about disclosing all assets, this is a very difficult legal contract to dispute. If there is no prenuptial agreement in place, things get far more ambiguous.
If no pre-existing legal document can be considered during divorce proceedings, then it falls to the couple and/or the divorce attorneys they have on hand, to divide and agree upon the distribution of assets and property. There are issues of ” separate” versus ” marital” property, which simply means assets or properties that originally belonged to you when you were single, versus property that was acquired together after marriage. Even this can get complicated, since you can change the status of some of these assets. If you owned a condo when you were single, for example, but then got married and added your spouse as a co-owner, that condo has now changed from separate to marital property.
Pennsylvania itself is referred to as an ” equitable distribution” state in terms of divorce. This means that in divorce cases, fair and equitable division is emphasized more than equal. This means many factors will come into play as divorce lawyers look at properties, stocks, investments and business interests. The length of the marriage, the incomes of the individuals concerned, the state of health of individuals, which couple will have primary custody of children and be required to financially support them are all factors that are looked at and seriously considered.
This is why it’s important to have an experienced divorce lawyer at your side during this time. That knowledge of divorce proceedings and looking after your best interests will help to ensure that when it comes time to divide assets, it will be fair.