Knowing how assets are divided and alimony amounts are determined can help give you a general idea of what may be awarded to you in a divorce. Hiring local divorce attorneys who are familiar with judges in the family court can also give you some insight into their communication styles and the factors they consider when dividing property and ordering alimony payments.
Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state. This means that courts divide marital assets and debts between spouses fairly, which isn’t necessarily a 50/50 split. It is always best to work with your spouse when determining what each person will get in a divorce instead of having a judge decide. Although a judge can make the final decision about how your marital assets are divided, nobody knows your circumstances better than you and your spouse. The following steps can help make the process easier and cut down on conflict.
Make a List of Assets and Debts
Each spouse should make their own list of assets and specify who should receive each one in the divorce. After you have both completed your lists, come together to compare and discuss any issues. It is critical to be honest and transparent. If you fail to include certain assets and your ex-spouse finds out later, they can petition the court to reevaluate the property division in your divorce. You may also face penalties and fines if you deliberately fail to disclose assets. Assets to consider when making your list include:
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts and pensions
- Real estate
- Insurance policies
- Investment accounts
- Anything and everything of value that you own
If you are unable to agree about whether an asset is marital or separate, you will have to prove to a judge that you have always owned it separately. Receipts, evidence of the date of payment and other documentation can show that you came into the marriage with the asset or purchased it on your own.
Debts acquired during your marriage such as a mortgage, credit card debt or tax debt will most likely be divided between you and your spouse. If you are concerned about how your assets and debt may affect your personal finances and credit, an experienced divorce attorney can evaluate your case and advise you of your options.
Consider the Value of Your Property
Typically, courts accept the fair market value of all items. FMV is what the item is worth today if you sell it, not what you paid for it. Putting your heads together when considering the value of all your assets can be of significant benefit when it is time to create a divorce settlement agreement. If you own any items like rare collectibles or jewelry, you may want to seek the assistance of an appraiser. It is also important to speak with an attorney for wills and trusts to make proper adjustments to the beneficiaries of your will and other assets.
Spousal support is calculated by formula. Alimony payments can also be negotiated outside of the courtroom. If a judge has to make a final decision about alimony, they will take multiple factors into consideration, such as the length of your marriage, your standard of living during the marriage, the needs of the dependent spouse, and other factors. Once you and your spouse decide how to split your assets, your divorce lawyers can draw up a formal divorce settlement agreement.