In many states, marital property is divided down the middle – a 50/50 split; however, that is not the case in states like Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is an equitable division state, so the assets are divided equitably, not evenly. There seems to be a great deal of confusion about the differences between equal and equitable – the difference is important, especially for financially dependent spouses.
Hopefully, a couple will reach a settlement agreement, and in many mutually agreed-upon divorces, this is the case. However, reaching a settlement agreement without a judge's intervention is unlikely when a divorce is contentious. If the court must determine the terms of your settlement agreement, it will use many factors to award assets to each party.
The court will consider factors like:
- Each spouse's income
- The length of the marriage,
- Care for minor children from the marriage
- Future needs
- Current financial situation
For financially dependent spouses, this can be a challenging problem because they may not be working or have not worked in a long time. Additionally, they may not have access to important financial information about joint investments and the current value of any assets. This exact scenario is playing out in the tabloids and news media in the divorce of Tom and Erika Girardi. She married a successful and rich man, and while she has worked in a limited capacity compared to the work and income of her husband. When she filed for divorce, she was at a disadvantage – even in a favorable state like California because she wasn't aware of assets and their values. She's stated that she wasn't given access to financial documents during her marriage – to keep her financially dependent.
Financial Disclosure and the Discovery Process
During a divorce, each party is required to file their financial disclosures with the court. The statement of assets should be thorough and complete; however, this is often not the case – especially in high asset divorces. This is an important step for the financially dependent spouse because it's where many learn the truth about their financial health. Famously during his deposition, Tom Girardi outlined how his financial health was smoke and mirrors, which came as a shock to the financially dependent Erika Girardi.
The role of a divorce attorney is to provide guidance during this difficult and often confusing process. If your spouse isn't complying with requests for financial documents, and you think the disclosures are missing important assets, your attorney can help you file the proper documents with the court to compel your spouse to turn over information about missing assets. In many cases, if your spouse has diversified assets in banks around the world, they could be stalling for reasons of privacy. This is where divorce mediation and a no-fault, uncontested divorce can be beneficial to both parties. When couples can reach a settlement agreement, many of these financial details can remain private.
Thoughtful and Considerate Representation from Cairns Law Group
If you are worried about dividing assets and getting a fair share of the marital assets in your Pennsylvania divorce, contact Cairns Law Offices today. Initial consultations are free. Just because you have assets doesn't mean your divorce needs to be expensive. If you and your spouse can agree on the terms of your divorce, you can make the smart choice and work with the lawyers at Cairn Law Group to file a $249 uncontested online divorce. Call us today at (888) 863-9115 to schedule a consultation or use our online contact form to request more information.