Whether you have been married one year or 50, you and your spouse probably have joint assets, such as bank accounts, real estate and vehicles as well as household items. The process of dividing assets fairly in a divorce is often a source of contention, especially if a marriage is not ending happily. No matter if you are facing a litigated breakup or a peaceful mediation, reaching a fair division of property will be critical to your post-divorce future.
It is not always easy to ensure you are getting your fair share during asset division. Some assets may be simple to divide, but others may carry certain risks. You will want to know what lies ahead and how to be certain you are making the most appropriate decisions. You would also be wise to understand your rights so you can do whatever is necessary to protect them.
Proceed with caution
Do you know which assets are on the table for property division and which you and your spouse own separately? The laws for asset division vary in each state, but Pennsylvania’s equitable distribution laws mean the courts aim for what is fair. Your separate property, such as an inheritance, individual gifts or property you owned previously and kept separate during your marriage, may not be on the table for division.
Many of your assets may still entangle with your spouse’s. To begin the process of separating them, you can do the following:
- Decide what to do with your home, such as selling it and splitting the proceeds or refinancing it and taking over ownership.
- Open your own bank accounts and discuss with your spouse and your attorney how to best close your joint accounts.
- Obtain a credit report so you know which debts are your joint responsibility, which are yours alone and which your spouse may be solely responsible for.
- Pay off any joint debts you can and close those accounts.
- Make a plan for paying off or dividing any remaining debts.
- Learn how to get a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) so you can have access to certain investment accounts the court awards you in the divorce.
You might find that your investment assets are among the most complicated to divide, and you could end up facing costly fees when you transfer funds out of the account. Some withdrawals also come with significant tax penalties. With these and all your asset division concerns, you will want to enlist the advice of a knowledgeable legal professional.