Category Archives: Property Division

TIPS ON STARTING A MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

Negotiating a marital settlement agreement during an uncontested divorce can seem overwhelming. You are trying to figure out the best way to get what you need and survive after the divorce; add the emotional aspects and you might feel like giving up before you even start. We’ve put together some tips to help you get started with your marital settlement agreement.

The first item to keep in mind is you are not usually going to get every single thing you want. Remember, it’s a negotiation. Both parties should walk away with some sense of a secure financial future. This is not the time to try to take advantage of your spouse or “stick it” to him or her. The goal is to save money by not having to go to court, where a judge will tell you what you get.

Keep focused during your negotiations. This is not the time to bring up complaints or emotional hurts, consider it a business deal which will affect the rest of your life. When communicating with your spouse:

  1. If you can’t be nice, at least be civil;
  2. Listen to your spouse, but don’t get dragged into a fight;
  3. Be patient, you may have to meet a couple of times to get the details finalized. It’s unusual to work out a marital settlement agreement in one meeting;
  4. Know what to compromise on; and
  5. Pick a neutral place to negotiate. The last thing you want are reminders of what went wrong or someone butting into your personal situation.

Don’t show up to your meeting and figure whatever happens is what was meant to happen. Show up prepared with a list of items you want to negotiate. Some individuals show up with a timer. This helps them not to linger on a topic and move on to the next issue. If you use a timer, negotiate how much time you’ll spend on each topic with your spouse. If you are having a hard time on a topic, leave it for another day.

Here are some topics you may want to consider as you move through your marital settlement agreement:

  1. Lawyer fees and legal divorce costs;
  2. Spousal support and/or alimony;
  3. Child support;
  4. Pets;
  5. Grandparents’ role;
  6. How to handle the needs of a special needs child;
  7. Creating a list of marital property;
  8. How to divide the marital property;
  9. Creating a list of marital assets and debts;
  10. How to handle the house;
  11. How to handle your child’s school year;
  12. How to handle your child’s birthday, holidays and special events;
  13. Taxes,
  14. Health insurance,
  15. Timeshares;
  16. Frequent flier miles;
  17. Pensions;
  18. Changing names on deeds;
  19. How to handle items of transportation – i.e. car, motorcycle, boat;
  20. What happens when an ex-spouse does not fulfill an obligation – i.e. child support or spousal support;
  21. How to handle any business you or your spouse are involved in;
  22. How to handle counseling for you and/or children; and
  23. How to handle religious training for your children.

Also, don’t be shy about asking your divorce attorney for a guide and/or some tips on negortiating marital settlement agreements.

GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE IN PENNSYLVANIA

Are you contemplating divorce? If you decide to take the plunge, in your divorce papers you will need to indicate on what “ground” you are divorcing. In other words, you must note the reason why you’re filing for a divorce. In Pennsylvania, spouses can file for divorce on both fault and no-fault grounds.

If a spouse wants to file a “fault” divorce, he or she is essentially accusing the other spouse of engaging in some sort of misconduct, for example, they are saying that their spouse committed adultery, or they walked out on the marriage for at least a year, or they committed domestic violence.

A spouse can file for a fault divorce on the following grounds:

  • Adultery
  • Bigamy
  • Abandoning a spouse for a year or longer
  • Spousal abuse, or another form of cruelty
  • Convicted of a crime and sent to prison for at least two years
  • Humiliation to such an extent, it makes marriage intolerable

Does misconduct impact property division?

This is a good question! Generally, judges do not consider misconduct, such as committing a crime, or family violence, or cheating when dividing property, however, a judge is entitled to consider a spouse’s misconduct when they are deciding whether or not to award spousal support or alimony.

No-Fault Divorce: a Better Way

A fault-based divorce can lead to costly litigation and a protracted divorce. Often, fault-based divorces are more stressful on all involved and they can literally drain the marital estate. If you want to avoid a full-blown court battle, you may want to consider the benefits of having a no-fault divorce instead, even if your spouse made his or her share of mistakes.

When you file a no-fault divorce, you are not blaming your spouse, at least not “on the record.” You’re not airing your dirty laundry; you are filing your divorce on the ground of “irretrievable breakdown,” which means your marriage is broken beyond repair, period.

In Pennsylvania, there are two types of no-fault divorce. A mutual consent no-fault divorce and irretrievable breakdown without mutual consent. The first is self-explanatory and by far, the most ideal of the two options.

With a mutual consent no-fault divorce, you and your spouse agree that your marriage is irretrievably broken, and you both agree to get divorced. In a mutual consent divorce, you can obtain be divorce as soon as 90 days after the divorce action is filed.

No-Fault Divorce Without Mutual Consent

If you want to end your marriage but your spouse refuses to consent to the divorce, you could file a no-fault divorce, however, you would have to file an affidavit with the court stating that you have lived separate and apart from your spouse for at least two years before the court could grant you a divorce.

If your spouse is willing to agree to a divorce, we recommend filing a no-fault, mutual consent divorce. This way, you can achieve the most cost-effective divorce possible and you can begin the next chapter of your life as a divorced person within a few months of filing the divorce papers.

Learn all about our affordable, no-fault divorces by contacting our firm directly!

GUNS, UNCONTESTED DIVORCE & MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS

Vernon Winfrey, Oprah Winfrey’s father, looks like he is headed for a heated contested divorce. Divorce allegations include having an affair, income from a trust his daughter set up for him, and holding a gun during an argument with his sixty-four year old wife Barbara Winfrey. It has been reported that the million dollar residence is now gun free.

In a tragic divorce situation, a spouse may not only shoot his or her spouse, but may also shoot himself or herself. Carefully consider your options on how to deal with your firearms and prevent a domestic violence situation. We have some ideas on how to start thinking about how you may want to handle your firearms and how they can be used in a marital settlement agreement.

Some options when dealing with an uncontested divorce and firearms are:

  1. Have a friend store your guns at his or her place;
  2. Place your guns in a storage facility;
  3. Store your guns with a gun dealer; and
  4. Put a trigger lock on your firearms.

Creating a complete list of the firearms you own should be a precaution you should take. Make sure to include serial numbers. Some individuals may think their spouse would never use the guns against him/her. In the heat of an argument you don’t want this to be an option taken in anger. Too often the words “I never thought this would happen” are heard after an avoidable situation.

If your spouse disposes your firearms you may end up being liable if they are improperly used. In some instances individuals do get their guns back from their ex spouse, but many times they were not properly stored and/or have been damaged. Some spouses have hastily hidden their husband’s/wife’s gun and unknowingly gave their child easy access to a firearm. Don’t make the mistake of leaving your guns where you child may have access to them!

Keep in mind that a spouse may use your gun against you. Also, you don’t want to give your spouse false pretenses for filing for a restraining order against you, especially if you have children. Think through the situation, and be proactive now instead of reacting later.

Even if you have removed the guns from your home you can include your guns in your marital settlement agreement. If the firearms were acquired during the marriage you can negotiate their value, using them as a debt (not fully paid off) or asset. You can get your gun collection appraised rather inexpensively, a quick search online will give you idea of their value. This can give you some leverage when negotiating your marital settlement agreement with your soon to be ex spouse.

DIVORCING? GET YOUR FINANCES IN LINE!

Researchers estimate that 45 to 50% of first marriages end in divorce in the United States. For second and subsequent marriages, the divorce rate is even higher. You may ask, “Why is the divorce rate so high in the United States?”

Many experts and divorce attorneys agree that two factors play a key role in the rate of divorce: 1) women are more economically independent than ever before, and 2) divorce is socially acceptable in the 21st century.

Even though more of America’s women are college educated and financially independent than they were in the 1970s and earlier, that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of spouses (men and women) put off a divorce for financial reasons and financial reasons alone. Many of our clients cited these economic reasons for putting off their divorce:

  • Afraid of losing their hard-earned assets
  • Afraid they can’t afford to pay child and/or spousal support
  • Afraid of giving half of their retirement to their spouse
  • Afraid of losing the marital residence
  • Afraid they can’t afford to support themselves or their family (often, stay at home moms) without their spouse’s income
  • Afraid of having to go back to work after a long hiatus
  • Don’t want to pay spousal support
  • Afraid they’ll be broke if they get a divorce
  • Afraid of being stuck with all of the marital debt

If you notice, we used the word “afraid” a lot. That’s because too many unhappy spouses put off filing for divorce because they have a lot of fear about what will happen to them financially. Most of these fears come from the unknown and not knowing much about how divorce will affect one’s finances.

Have money fears prevented you from taking the plunge?

If you’re in an unsatisfying marriage but you’ve held on because you’re afraid of ending up penniless, we have good news for you. Pennsylvania’s divorce laws are aimed at being fair. If you can’t afford to pay spousal support, there’s a good chance the judge will not order it.

If you’ve only been married for a year or two and you’re wealthy, the judge isn’t going to divide all of your assets down the middle and give the other half to your spouse; it doesn’t work like that.

Instead, the judge will look at only the assets acquired during the marriage, and after carefully reviewing your situation, the judge will decide on a fair and equitable distribution, unless of course you and your spouse reach an agreement on your own.

If you’re headed for divorce, here are some things to start thinking about today to prepare yourself financially:

  • If you’re the lower-earning spouse, you cannot rely on spousal support because it’s not guaranteed. Start thinking about what you need to do to become financially independent and self-supporting.
  • If you’re the higher-earning spouse, start thinking about ways to increase your income. If you’re ordered to pay child and/or spousal support, you’ll probably need more income to be comfortable.
  • Focus on paying off debt and living below your means.
  • Create a post-divorce budget today.
  • Think, “What can I do to become more successful?” If going back to school or working hard for a promotion will help you out, then by all means do it.
  • Find ways to cut down on your expenses.
  • If you’re not already, start saving 10% of your income so you have a safety net.
  • If you can afford one, hire a financial advisor to help you plan for retirement as a single person.
  • Ask your divorce attorney for advice on how to protect your credit during a divorce.
  • If you’re in the dark about your finances, now is the time to get intimately familiar with them.

Divorce does not have to be the big financial blow that people fear it will be. While you’ll need to reorganize your life and your priorities, if you play your cards right, you can change your economic circumstances for the better.

One of the best ways to get started on the right foot is to agree to a mutual consent, no-fault divorce through No Contest Divorce, LLC. With our services, it’s possible to achieve a fast and cheap divorce in no time at all. To learn more about our low-cost divorce services, contact our office directly!

DO I REALLY NEED A SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT?

Instead of handling contested or litigated divorces, our firm focuses on helping spouses who are seeking an uncontested, no-fault divorce. While we may be the home of the cheap, “quickie” divorce, there’s nothing second rate about our services.

While we’re big advocates of a fast, no-fault, mutual consent divorce, we do not promote that our clients obtain a divorce without a settlement agreement. A settlement agreement is a legally-enforceable agreement between two divorcing spouses. Meaning, it will stand up in court.

The settlement agreement addresses important issues, such as what will happen to your children, who will keep what property, and who will pay which debts after the divorce is finalized.

While a divorce attorney can prepare a settlement agreement before, during, or after a divorce, we recommend that the spouses enter into a settlement agreement before the divorce is finalized.

Why Reach an agreement before the divorce is final?

Sure, you may be in a hurry to get divorced, but we don’t recommend rushing the divorce and putting the settlement agreement off “for another day.” You and your spouse may be on the same page about the divorce now, but afterwards, disagreements over property division, child custody, and debts may arise.

When you anticipate these potential setbacks before they arise and address them in a settlement agreement, you save yourself a lot of headache and frustration. You may even be saving yourself a few trips back to court (not to mention the expense) by getting it all in writing before your divorce is final.

We Prepare Settlement Agreements

As Pennsylvania no-fault divorce attorneys, one of our main services is preparing settlement agreements for our clients. We have the knowledge and experience to help you create a proposal for your spouse regarding child custody, visitation, and property distribution.

If your spouse has disagreements with one or more aspects of the proposal, or if they’d like to incorporate their suggestions, we’d be glad to go back to the drawing board and make the necessary changes until we reach an agreement that you both are satisfied with.

Even if you and your spouse have already made verbal agreements about your children and property, we’ll help draw up a written agreement so you can memorialize those agreements in a legally-enforceable legal document.

Learn more about the benefits of a settlement agreement and our low-cost divorce services by giving us a call today!

CAN A DIVORCE AGREEMENT BE CHANGED?

If you have decided to get a divorce, you may or may not be apprehensive about the whole process. For example, if you and your spouse have minor children together and you have acquired some marital assets, such as a nice home with a little equity, you may be nervous about child custody and property division.

When we represent clients in their divorce actions, we highly recommend that spouses create marital settlement agreements before the divorce is final. Settlement agreements can address what happens to a couple’s assets and debts, and what happens to their children.

In a standard marital settlement agreement, the couple will agree on the following:

  • Child custody
  • Visitation
  • Property division
  • Debt division
  • What will happen to the marital home
  • Spousal support (if any)
  • What will happen to a spouse’s business (if applicable)

Marital settlement agreements are very valuable tools. Why? Because they allow spouses to reach agreements on very important issues, they give the spouses clarity on what to expect, and they can help spouses avoid having to go to court later for these specific issues because they failed to do so during the divorce.

Settlement agreements put everything in writing in a legally-enforceable, legally-binding document. However, it’s important to note one key facet of these agreements – certain provisions contained within are subject to change.

If you were worried that you could never go back to court and ask for a change in child custody or support, or spousal support, you can breathe a sigh of relief because these may be changed in the future – they are not necessarily set in stone.

Family Court Judges Know That Things Change

If you are about to ask for a divorce, it’s important that you know that your life will go through a lot of changes in the next 5 to 10 years, and same goes for your children and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. For example, you could remarry and want to relocate, or your spouse may do the same.

You may lose your job, or your ex may lose theirs. If you’re paying spousal support, your ex may re-marry before your spousal support payments are supposed to end. Or, your son may dislike your ex-wife’s new husband and when he’s 14, he may want to move in with you instead.

Perhaps you’re a stay-at-home mom today, but after going back to school and getting a nursing license, you may dramatically increase your income. In that case, your ex-husband may go back to court and ask to lower your spousal support payments. Or, your ex-husband may have a $100,000 per year increase in pay, and you may want to ask the court to increase his child support obligation.

Post-Judgement Modifications

Whatever marital settlement agreement you and your spouse agree to, we want you to know that matters pertaining to child custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support can be changed in the future.

Either spouse can ask the court for a post-judgement modification, however, the petitioning spouse must show the court a significant change in circumstances warrants their request for a change.

Looking for a Pennsylvania no-fault divorce lawyer? Contact No Contest Divorce, LLC today!

WHAT HAPPENS TO PROPERTY IN A PENNSYLVANIA DIVORCE?

In the United States, there are two methods of dividing marital property in a divorce: community property and equitable distribution. Pennsylvania, like most states, follows the equitable distribution model.

Divorcing spouses know that divorce affects their assets, but they don’t always know exactly how or to what extent. Cash in bank accounts, real estate, automobiles, life insurance, 401ks and IRAs, stocks and bonds, businesses – divorce touches on all of these things, but to what extent? Do spouses have to split the marital assets equally?

Marital vs. Separate Property

In a Pennsylvania divorce, marital assets are divided in an equitable and fair manner depending on the facts of the case. Unlike community property states, such as California and Nevada, that doesn’t necessarily mean equally or 50/50.

If a couple cannot reach a property settlement agreement, the judge will have to decide for them. In these situations, the first matter of business is to determine what is separate property and what is marital.

“Marital property” refers to just about all assets acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage, with the exception of gifts to one spouse and an inheritance. Marital assets include investments, a house, automobiles, bank accounts, and so on, regardless of whose name is on the account or mortgage.

Separate property is NOT subject to division in a Pennsylvania divorce and it includes assets acquired before the marriage, but as mentioned above, it also includes gifts and inheritances acquired before or during the marriage.

What factors determine fairness in asset division?

  • Length of the marriage,
  • Age and health of each spouse,
  • Any previous marriages by either spouse,
  • Each spouse’s earning capacity,
  • The standard of living established during the marriage,
  • One spouse’s contributions to the other spouse’s education or increased earning capacity,
  • Each spouse’s assets, income and debts,
  • Contributions as a homemaker,
  • Each spouse’s economic circumstances, and
  • Whether a spouse will be a custodial parent of the couple’s children.

Note: Marital misconduct, namely adultery, is not considered when a judge is determining fairness in the division of marital assets.

The best way to control how assets are divided in your divorce is to seek a no-fault divorce. To learn about our $319 no-fault divorces, contact No Contest Divorce, LLC today.

ARE GIFTS BETWEEN SPOUSES SEPARATE PROPERTY IN PENNSYLVANIA DIVORCES?

When it comes to dividing property in a divorce, there are two methods of distribution: equitable distribution and community property. Only a small handful of states, including California and Nevada, are community property states. The rest of them, including Pennsylvania, use the equitable distribution model.

Under community property law, spouses have a 50 percent interest in all marital property and marital debt, regardless of who earned the money, whose name is on the title, or which spouse incurred a debt. Under the equitable distribution model, the property is divided in a fair and equitable fashion, which does not necessarily mean “equal.”

Separate vs. Marital Property

In Pennsylvania divorces, only marital property or assets are divided. Separate property remains separate under most circumstances. Some examples of separate property include:

  1. Assets acquired before the marriage
  2. Inheritances and gifts received during the marriage
  3. Property that has been excluded from the marital estate due to an ironclad prenuptial or postnuptial agreement
  4. Property the spouses acquired after the separation
  5. Certain veterans’ benefits
  6. Personal injury awards received after the couple separated

If you notice, #2 lists inheritances and gifts received during a marriage as “separate property,” however, that is not the case with gifts exchanged between spouses. If a gift was given from one spouse to another during the marriage, it would NOT be separate property. Instead, it would be considered “marital property” and therefore it would be subject to division in the divorce.

For example, suppose a husband bought his wife an expensive horse for her birthday. Even though he gave her the horse, and even though it was an animal, it would still be considered “marital property” in the divorce. The same would go for a car, a boat, artwork, or anything else of value. As long as it was a gift between spouses, it would be marital property.

If you’re interested in learning more about our low-cost divorce services, we invite you to contact No Contest Divorce, LLC today!