“Thank goodness you don’t have children.” That insensitive remark has been heard by countless divorcing spouses through the years, even though the sentiment may have been well-intended by friends or family members.
While not having to deal with child custody issues may seem like a good thing to many who haven’t gone through the experience themselves, the truth is divorce is an emotionally devastating experience, regardless of the circumstances. In some cases, a couple’s inability to have a child or one spouse’s reluctance may have contributed to the end of the relationship.
Focus on the financials
For spouses who do not have to navigate a future co-parenting relationship, financial issues become the focus. Negotiations typically center on these three issues:
Determining separate property
Pennsylvania considers property as “marital” or “non-marital.” Marital assets are “equitably” divided while non-marital assets are typically excluded. Separate property can include:
- Assets exempted under a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement
- Property owned by either party before the marriage
- Inheritances and gifts
- Property acquired after the separation
However, if you commingle separate assets with joint accounts during the marriage, they may lose their protected status.
If both spouses earn roughly the same income, it’s likely that neither party will receive alimony. However, if one spouse is financially dependent upon the other, a state-mandated calculator containing several factors generally determines the level of support. Judges do have some leeway to set the final amount.
Dividing marital assets
In most cases, Pennsylvania considers any property and income gained after the marriage began to be marital property. This includes:
- Banking, investment and retirement accounts
- Cars, boats and other vehicles
Courts also typically divide debts accrued after the marriage date and before the separation date.
Calculating the value of marital property
Most couples settle disputes over dividing assets without litigation. However, it’s crucial to get knowledgeable legal guidance to value marital assets and debts accurately. If you have complex assets, such as a business, your lawyer may work with an appraiser.
Likewise, if you suspect your spouse of hiding assets, you may need a forensic accountant to track them down. The best protection is to be prepared and organized by taking an inventory of all assets and promptly providing documentation to your attorney.