Property settlement agreements allow divorcing spouses to decide how to divide their assets and liabilities. While spouses may agree on who gets the stereo and who gets the TV, the division of large assets such as a house or car is more complex and potentially contentious. Catherine H. Voit works with you to negotiate and draft a property settlement agreement that protects your financial future.
Spouses often don’t realize how much they have accumulated until they sit down to divide it during divorce. Although it can be difficult, parties should always attempt to reach a property settlement agreement (PSA).
If the parties are not able to negotiate a PSA, they face costly and time-consuming litigation in which the court ends up dividing the property. The litigated result may not be what either party wanted.
Negotiating a PSA generally involves four steps:
Once the parties reach an agreement, they memorialize the terms in a PSA and submit it to the court. If the court finds the PSA to be reasonable, it will become part of the final divorce decree.
Spouses start the property division process by making a list of all assets — both those held jointly and separately. Property can be both tangible, such as cars, jewelry, boats and houses. Or it can be intangible, such as stocks, life insurance, pensions, retirement accounts and intellectual property. Liabilities must also be listed, including student loans, car loans, mortgages and unpaid credit card balances.
Once the parties have listed their property, each item is classified as marital or nonmarital, because only marital property must be divided during a divorce. Marital property includes everything acquired by either spouse from the date of the marriage to the date of separation. Nonmarital assets include property acquired before the marriage, property acquired by personal gift or inheritance, and property excluded by a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.
As part of the equitable distribution process, marital property must be valued. Some types of property, such as bank accounts and credit card debt, are easy to value based on current statements. However, houses, cars, collectibles and other property must generally be appraised to determine the fair market value.
Although property acquired prior to marriage or by gift or inheritance is not considered marital property, any increase or decrease in value of those assets during the marriage is part of the marital estate. The appreciation or depreciation of the asset is calculated from the date of marriage to the date of separation.
Once all of the property is categorized and valued, the parties can make informed decisions about how to divide it fairly. A PSA should clearly spell out the rights and responsibilities of each party. While the assistance of an attorney is not required, it is certainly recommended.
West Chester family lawyer Catherine H. Voit is a certified mediator, who is trained to help couples reach a property settlement. She facilitates the PSA process by creating solutions that work for all parties and ensuring that the agreement meets the necessary legal requirements.
Attorney Catherine H. Voit can help with all aspects of your divorce, including negotiating a property settlement agreement for you. To schedule an appointment, call Catherine today at 484-881-3185 or contact her online.