When you share a lot of property with your spouse, dividing it in your divorce will require substantial effort. Rather than trying to push through and complete the process as quickly as possible, it is more important that you pay attention to the details, as the outcome of property division will strongly influence your financial circumstances for years to come.
If you and your spouse do not have a prenuptial agreement outlining how to divide your assets, then you will need to negotiate a settlement or rely on the Pennsylvania family courts to apply equitable distribution statutes to your property.
Regardless of which approach is necessary in your divorce, there are certain steps that you can take to ensure a fair and appropriate outcome to the property division process.
Account for income as you review financial records
It will not be fun or quick to go over tax and income documents throughout your marriage to determine how you spent your money, but that is exactly what you need to do. Some people spend much of their marriage trying to hide assets, possibly by moving money right into a hidden account every time they get paid.
The only way to locate this kind of hidden financial asset is to look over your household income records to determine if there is money unaccounted for over the years. Partnering with a professional, such as a forensic accountant, can help you more accurately review your marital estate and push for a fair and appropriate settlement.
Scrutinize the asset inventory that your spouse provides
Each of you will need to provide one another and the courts with the list of your assets and their approximate value to facilitate the property division process. A common way to unfairly manipulate the outcome of asset division is not to disclose physical assets or to intentionally undervalue them.
You want to make sure that everything from your spouse’s antique dressing room chair to their collection of pocket watches is on the inventory and has a realistic, fair market value attached.
Explore whether some purchases might constitute dissipation
If your spouse went on a shopping spree the week before they filed for divorce or if you filed because you discovered that they spent thousands of dollars buying their mistress a car, their spending could constitute the dissipation of marital assets and might affect how the courts divide your property.
Gathering evidence that your spouse intentionally used marital assets in a way that undermines your relationship could convince the courts to exclude certain debts from the property division process or to hold your spouse accountable for the assets they wasted.
Locating and properly pricing assets will play a major role in the equitable distribution of your assets.