The divorce rate in the United States is declining

California residents may not be aware of the recent statistics about divorce rates. While there is a widespread perception that 50 percent of couples end up divorcing, the number has actually been declining for years. The highest divorce rates occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s but an estimated 70 percent of marriages beginning in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary. The statistics for marriages that took place in the first decade of the 21st century are even more promising.

Perhaps the 1970s feminist movement contributed to the decline of the divorce rate because financial difficulties have been limited by couples bringing in two incomes. In the past women were typically responsible for raising children, cooking and maintaining the home. In modern-day marriage often couples will share these responsibilities, achieving a sense of teamwork.

It is also thought that the decline of marriages ending is due to couples marrying at a later age in life, resulting in marriages that are more mature in nature. In the 1950s the average age for men to marry was 23 and the average age for women was 20. Those numbers have drastically changed as well, as in 2004 the average age for men to marry was 27 and the average age for women was 26.

While the news about the current state of marriage in the United States is encouraging other important factors may be affected as well. For example, child-related issues that stem from the issue of divorce could also be improved if the numbers continue to go down. While these statistics are optimistic, divorce will continue to occur, and couples will face issues including property division as well as child custody and support.

Source: The Huffington Post, “The Truth About The Divorce Rate Is Surprisingly Optimistic“, Brittany Wong, December 02, 2014

Property division is important for Pennsylvania residents

Pennsylvania residents who are going through a divorce have several options for dividing property. One of the challenges that faces many couples during the process is how to buy out the former spouse without the burden of a mortgage. Changes that take place before the legal separation or finalized divorce often cause unanticipated problems. For example, if one spouse were to buy property before the divorce decree is issued, the other spouse may have to sign a quitclaim deed formally releasing any claims to the property.

One common problem occurs when a couple is officially divorced, but one spouse lacks the funds to buy out the other. When a spouse is unable to receive a payoff, they are still legally responsible for their share of the mortgage. Many people in this situation are concerned about the impact on their credit score if their former spouse does not pay the mortgage on time. These types of concerns are a leading reason for home sales or spouses being paid off after the end of a marriage.

It is common for one party to continue living in the home even though the other vacates the property. The separation agreement and the final divorce decree help determine how property division occurs. Many couples who divorce on amicable terms are able to reach an agreement that works well for both parties and is approved by the court.

Asset distribution may be one of the most contested issues when a marriage fails. Legal representation may be an advisable choice when the parties have difficulty reaching an agreement. Because Pennsylvania courts follow the principle of equitable distribution, it may be important for each party to have separate legal representation.

Source: Credit.com, “How to Divide Your House in a Divorce“, Scott Sheldon, October 31, 2014

Examining the divorce asset distribution rules in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania couples who are thinking about divorce may be interested in how asset division works in the state. Understanding these principles can help a spouse to prepare for the end of a marriage, in order to protect their rights to property during the process.

In Pennsylvania, property is generally divided into marital and separate property categories. In general, separate property is any property obtained before the marriage or after the separation, any gifts or inheritance given to only one spouse and any personal injury damages awarded to a spouse separately. Everything else is considered marital property. In some cases, however, separate property can be considered marital property, depending on how it is used during the marriage. When the separate property is commingled with the rest of the marital assets, it may be considered marital property. If the separate property is used to purchase jointly-owned assets, like a home, this may also make it marital property.

Marital property is subject to equitable distribution during a divorce. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be an equal division of the marital assets, but simply that they will be divided in a way that a court sees as fair to the parties. A court will look at various financial and other factors in making this determination.

Rather than leaving this property division decision up to a judge, couples may be able to negotiate their own divorce settlement agreement that would cover this issue. If many of the divorce legal issues are not contentious, a couple may be able to save time and money by using mediation or collaborative divorce to govern their separation. An attorney with experience in family law may be able to assist a client in going through the process.

Source: Forbes, “Divorcing Women: Here’s How to Protect Your Inheritances And Gifts“, Jeff Landers, August 19, 2014

Source: Forbes, “Divorcing Women: Here’s How to Protect Your Inheritances And Gifts“, Jeff Landers, August 19, 2014

Frank McCourt awarded $1.9 million

Major League Baseball fans in Pennsylvania may have heard about a recent ruling in Frank McCourt’s high-profile divorce. McCourt, who is the former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was recently awarded $1.9 million in attorneys’ fees after his former wife contested the terms of their 2012 divorce settlement.

After the settlement, which had given the woman $131 million in tax-free funds and allowed her to retain sole ownership of a number of the former couple’s luxury properties, was finalized, McCourt sold the Dodgers for approximately $2 billion. The woman sought to have the standing agreement overturned, claiming that her former husband had not fully disclosed the value of the team during property division negotiations. However, a judge hearing the dispute denied the claim in September 2013.

According to reports, McCourt has spent around $2 million in defending against the woman’s claim, and he sought payment from her for those costs, citing the terms of the divorce agreement. The document includes language stating that a party who attempts to modify the settlement is responsible for the other party’s attorneys’ fees. While the woman said that the amount was unreasonable in April, the judge ruled in the man’s favor on June 24.

As this case shows, the terms of a divorce settlement may be difficult to modify. When drafting such a document, a couple might benefit from working with attorneys. Separate legal counsel might offer a client advice regarding his or her rights and obligations throughout proceedings and could represent the client’s interests during negotiations with the other party.

Source: ABC News, “Judge Favors Frank McCourt in Divorce Fees Fight“, Anthony McCartney, June 26, 2014

In divorce, what happens to your retirement plan?

If you are approaching retirement and getting a divorce, your may be worried about what will happen to your retirement account. Will you have to split it with your ex? If so, will you have to work longer than planned before you can retire comfortably?

Most often, your retirement account will be addressed during the property division part of your divorce. While some couples will work out an agreement to split a retirement account, others will work out a different solution — perhaps giving one spouse the retirement assets and the other spouse an asset of equal value. One thing to consider, no matter how you think a retirement account should be handled in divorce, is whether a qualified domestic relations order is necessary to divide an account.

A QDRO gives a spouse the right to a portion of the other spouse’s retirement assets. For example, if you have a retirement account that falls under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, your ex will need a QDRO to lay claim to any part of that account. Retirement assets that generally do require a QDRO to be split between spouses are employee stock ownership plans, 403(b) and 401(k) accounts, and profit-sharing plans. If you have an IRA or a government retirement plan, however, your ex will probably not need a QDRO to seek a portion of those assets.

If your retirement assets do not require a QDRO to be divided and you do not have a prenuptial agreement that address retirement accoutns, often a judge will consider whatever assets were obtained during the marriage to be marital property, and therefore subject to division.

Source: NJ.com, “Biz Brain: Splitting a retirement plan after divorce,” Karin Price Mueller, Jan. 26, 2014

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