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Divorce & the Financially Dependent Spouse

Posted By Cairns Law Offices || 21-Dec-2015

In community property states, such as California and Nevada, a couple's marital assets are divided 50/50 during a divorce. That's not the case in Pennsylvania, which is an "equitable division" state.

Under Pennsylvania's divorce laws, a married couple's assets are divided equitably, which doesn't always mean "equally." If a couple cannot reach a settlement agreement, the court decides how their assets are divided bases on 11 factors, including each spouse's income, the length of the marriage, and whether there are any minor children.

There is no "cookie-cutter" approach to this division process; the outcome is based on the parties' current financial situations and future needs.

Financially Dependent Spouses

For financially dependent spouses, some of the biggest problems come down to:

  • Not knowing about all investments
  • Not having current information about assets
  • Not having access to information about assets

With the discovery process, the spouses are required to file inventories of their assets with the court. However, it's not uncommon for a spouse not to comply with request for document requests, or sometimes he or she will provide incomplete information.

If a spouse is noncompliant with the discovery process, it can lead to a long delay and it can be expensive. Once the divorce is finalized, assets will need to be distributed to the financially dependent spouse, but this can get difficult if a retirement plan needs to be transferred to the economically dependent spouse.

The issue is that plan administrators generally won't speak to the nonemployee spouse or their attorney, therefore, obtaining information for transferring retirement assets can be difficult. If there is a long and costly delay in this transfer process, it typically results in a frustrated client, and reasonably so.

Often, the financially independent spouse hides income or assets, especially when they are self-employed. In that case, the financially independent spouse may try to put assets in different entity names or in a family trust, which makes it hard to identify or value such assets.

Unfortunately, the perception that the homemaker or stay-at-home mom or dad is at a disadvantage during a divorce can be true, especially when he or she does not have good representation.

A good divorce attorney knows to petition the court for the financial documents, and they are fully prepared to argue for an equitable division of the couple's assets so the client's contributions as a stay-at-home parent are recognized by the court.

To learn more about dividing assets in a Pennsylvania divorce, contact Cairns Law Offices today. All of our initial consultations are free!