Montgomery County, PA Property Division Lawyer
Get a Skilled Advocate on Your Side to Protect Your Belongings
Of all the decisions that need to be made during a divorce, dividing up property can be one of the worst. No matter what circumstances you face, pursuing fair property division is vital for ensuring a better future for you and your children. By doing so, you will have the best chance at moving forward and protecting your rights, well-being, and chance at a fulfilling life.
With a call to the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., at (610) 645-0100, you can receive a no-cost consultation with a Montgomery County property division lawyer. Our advice concerning your unique case may help you avoid mistakes that many people make during a divorce.
Understanding Equitable Distribution in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, but what does this mean for your divorce? Firstly, "equitable" means fair, not even. So property will not necessarily be split 50%-50% between you and your ex. Judges will take several factors into consideration when making decisions on what will be done with property, including the marriage length, the age of the spouses, the sources and amount of income, any previous marriages, the current property values, a reasonable standard of living, taxes, how dividing up the property will affect the children, and more.
Gathering evidence and having clear goals will help you find success in your case and preserve the property that is most important to you.
Finding Hidden Assets
During a divorce, one spouse may try to hide assets from the other spouse. This may be done with malicious intent, or because the spouse does not think he or she will be able to live comfortably after the division of property. In either case, it is illegal and can lead to significant consequences. If you suspect that your ex is trying to hide assets, it is important to take action right away. There are a number of ways to find these hidden assets, and a good lawyer can help.
One spouse may be having an affair, for example, which results in the waste of marital assets. Reviewing a spouse’s social media profiles is one way an affair may be brought to light. The Secretary of State’s website can also uncover business dealings or holdings the other spouse is involved in. The tax assessor’s site will also list personal property and real property under the spouse’s name. Reviewing a spouse’s tax return can also show assets that are being hidden from the family court - the spouse may have reported income on his or her tax return not listed on the financial disclosure. Copies of tax returns can often be requested from the IRS, but a forensic accountant may be necessary to find hidden assets. Our office works with accountants to look through paperwork inside the household to reveal hidden assets, which may have been given or loaned to another person to “protect” those assets during the divorce.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What properties are affected?
A: All property that was bought after you were married is considered "marital property" and is to be divided. This may even include property bought after a separation, if you were still married during this time. However, if the property acquired after the date of separation was obtained using non-marital funds, then it is not considered a marital asset.
Marital property also includes job-related finances and other materials: retirement plans, stocks, bonds, annuities, pensions, and more. These may be given fully to one person or split between the exes.
Q: What happens to debt?
A: Debt is treated differently. All debt incurred during the marriage is considered marital debt and will be split between the two parties unless one spouse can show that it is reasonable to assign the full responsibility for a debt to the other spouse. Any debts accumulated before the marriage by one person will not be considered martial debt, and that person will be fully responsible for paying them. The only time debt made before the marriage can be considered marital debt is if the debt was made to contribute to the marriage. For example, loans for wedding costs could be considered marital debt even though they were incurred prior to the marriage.
Q: Who gets the house?
A: The house is one of the most fought-over assets in a divorce. It’s understandable, because no one wants to leave the place they call home. If there are children involved, the courts won’t want them to be uprooted from their normal routine if it can be avoided. The parent who does the majority of the child-rearing will be awarded the family home in most cases.
If there are no children involved and the home was purchased during the marriage, then the courts will use equitable distribution to determine who it will be awarded to. Not all property has to be directly given to one person or the other. Houses can be sold and the profits split between the former spouses.
If the home was purchased prior to marriage, then the home has a good chance of going to that purchaser, and the other person would have to vacate. However, neither party has the right to kick the other out of the house until it is decided by the court. If you have been wrongfully removed from your home, you can take legal action against your spouse.
Q: How is a business divided during divorce?
A: Property division can become even more complex when a business is involved. Just because you run the business does not mean you will be awarded 100% of that business upon divorce. If the business was started or purchased during the marriage, the courts will view it as marital property and divide it like any other marital property.
However, the courts will take certain factors into consideration when dividing the business. These include:
- Each spouse’s involvement in running the business.
- When the business was established, and the percentage owned by each partner.
- The value each spouse brings to the business, including qualifications and customer relationships.
- Whether one spouse borrowed from family funds to purchase the business.
- Whether one spouse can buy the other out, or not.
- How the remaining assets and liabilities are divided.
- The ability of each spouse to earn a similar wage if he/she cannot run the business.
When both spouses contribute equally to the business and there are few other assets, the family court may award each spouse a share of the business. One spouse may be forced to buy out the other spouse out or sell his/her shares. In some cases, the two spouses may continue to work together in the business after the divorce.
Q: What about jewelry?
A: High-end items are divided by the value of items, rather than each item itself. For example, a judge may allow a person to keep all of his or her jewelry, but offset the value by awarding other high-value items to the other spouse. If there aren’t similarly valuable items, the judge may order that some of the jewelry be sold and split the proceeds between the two spouses. The same is true for artwork, antiques, collections, and other valuables.
A Montgomery County Attorney Dedicated to Your Needs
The decisions made about property and finances will have long-lasting effects on the lives of both you and your children. If you are entering into a divorce, do not leave your well-being up to chance. Call Montgomery County divorce attorney Sheryl R. Rentz and begin working toward a better future today. A free consultation is available by calling (610) 645-0100 and can start you off with the information you need to take the right steps in your divorce case.
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