Dividing Your Assets In A Divorce

Equitable distribution is the process in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania whereby a Court divides divorcing spouses’ assets.  Equitable Distribution is one of the Counts raised in a Complaint Divorce where there are issues of property to be divided. If a couple wishes to avoid the formal process of equitable distribution through litigation (i.e. going to court), they may do so by settling their property issues amicably, either by and through their respective attorneys, collaborative lawyers, their mediator, or on their own.  In addition to providing top-notch service in litigation, I provide the aforementioned services as well.  A settlement is achieved after negotiating the relevant issues and executing a Marriage Settlement Agreement or other equivalent Order or Agreement which concretizes the Agreement between the divorcing Husband and Wife.  The best, most complete, and legally appropriate Marriage Settlement Agreement will be custom drafted by an experienced attorney.  Those that are professionally created have the highest likelihood of completeness, appropriateness, and enforceability (which means being enforceable by the court in the case that either spouse does not abide by the document).

Obviously, there are other methods for drafting a Marriage Settlement Agreement – namely those drafted by the individuals themselves.  For those clients who are looking for a cost-effective way to avoid hiring an attorney to draft one, www.DashDivorce.com offers formulaic Marriage Settlement Agreements for sale online.  In my opinion, because I crafted the document to cover as many situations as possible using the most formulaic Pennsylvania based contract language, I believe the www.DashDivorce.com Marriage Settlement Agreement is one of the best to be found on the web.  Conveniently, as a divorce almost always follows the creation of a web-based Marriage Settlement Agreement, one may choose to bundle the purchase with either a $99 or $499 deluxe one count, no fault divorce (plus court fees) with the service.

Litigating The Equitable Distribution Of Assets

In a litigated divorce, equitable distribution begins when one of the spouses raises the claim of equitable distribution in a pleading such as a Complaint in Divorce, an Answer to the Complaint, or in a Petition Raising Claims.  This, in effect, puts the Court "on notice" that the division is a property is an issue that may be addressed through the legal system.

When one party raises the claim of Equitable Distribution, and proceeds through the Court system, both parties file an Inventory and Appraisement.  Suffice it to say that the most litigants who reach this stage of the divorce process have utilized the services of a lawyer or law firm, such as myself, to get to this point.  An Inventory and Appraisement is an official Court pleading which documents and itemizes the marital assets, the non-marital assets, the debts, the non-marital debts, and the other assets of each party.

At any time during the litigation of the assets, either party may choose to pursue discovery of the other’s individual or jointly held assets.  Discovery is the formal process by which an attorney (or a pro se litigant) inquiries into the existence and value of the assets of the marriage.  Discovery encompasses a broad range of documents and techniques, from depositions, to requests to produce documents, to questionnaires or interrogatories asking the other side about the assets.

Equitable Distribution In A Contested Divorce

In a contested divorce, for a variety of reasons, a defendant spouse may not want to move the divorce along quickly.  As a matter of fact, some divorces may take two years or more to become final.  In any event, when the required documents and filed, and the timeline runs its course, a divorce involving equitable distribution may finally reach a deciding party for hearing or trial.  In many cases, the deciding authority is the judge.  In some cases, a deciding party may be a hearing officer, a master, a special master, or any individual designated by the Court or the Commonwealth for that purpose.  Conciliations, hearings, and ultimately a trial are the processes by which equitable distribution cases are heard.  Even after a trial, divorces are like any other Court litigation, in that appeals to the lower, Superior, and/or Supreme Court may follow.  Because divorce is such an individualized, personal matter, people often forge that they are legal actions, involving Plaintiffs, Defendants, and suing for action.  Keeping this in mind, the best way to ensure your case is handled appropriately is by hiring the right attorney.

Contact Bethany L. Notaro, Esquire

Bethany L. Notaro, Esquire is an experienced equitable distribution and divorce lawyer, handling cases in Pittsburgh (Allegheny County) as well as throughout southwestern Pennsylvania (Westmoreland, Washington, Butler, among others).  Ms. Notaro will be more than happy to consult with you regarding your own unique family law situation, and how she may help.  Dividing assets and equitable distribution may be a complicated process for many individuals.  However, attorney Bethany L. Notaro and her divorce law firm are here to explain your many options.  For more information on divorce and rates for divorce, please contact lawyer Bethany L. Notaro at 412-281-1944.