In the United States, there are two methods of dividing marital property in a divorce: equitable distribution and community property. Like the majority of states, Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, which does not necessarily mean a couple’s property will be divided 50/50 in a divorce. It means the court will divide the couple’s property in a manner that is considered fair considering the couple’s circumstances.
“Can’t we just come up with a property settlement agreement on our own?” Yes, absolutely, but if a couple cannot reach such an agreement, the court will have to decide for them and this is clearly, less than ideal. In our experience, spouses much prefer to control their property settlement rather than have a judge decide for them.
What if a Spouse Doesn’t Comply?
Let’s say a couple has an amicable no-fault divorce. They reach a property settlement agreement; a judge signs off on it and it’s entered as a court order. But, after the divorce, the couple stops getting along and the husband refuses to give his wife half the equity in the house as he promised when he agreed to buy her out.
So, according to their divorce agreement, he owes her $30,000, which is half the equity the couple had in the house at the time of their divorce. What are the repercussions for violating such an agreement?
Under Section 3502(e) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, it says that if a party fails to comply with an order of equitable distribution or with any agreement entered into between a divorcing couple, the court may:
- Enter a judgment;
- Award interest;
- Attach the party’s wages;
- Award attorney fees;
- Find the violating party in contempt;
- Initiate attachment proceedings;
- Require security for future payments;
- Order the transfer or sale of property required for compliance of the order; and
- Authorize a seizure of rents or profits of the violating party’s property.
If you are getting a divorce in Pennsylvania and you will be entering into a property settlement agreement with your spouse, it’s important to remember what can happen if you or your spouse fail to comply with the agreement. There can be serious ramifications if a spouse fails to stick to their end of the divorce agreement.