You knew this day was coming, and you are ready to start the divorce process, but it is already overwhelming. There are many short and long term issues to be worked out. Who will get custody of the kids? Should you move out of your house? Will you owe spousal support or child support? Having worked with numerous clients in your position, we sympathize with the worry and uncertainty this challenging time of life brings. We can help.
Even if you and your spouse have agreed to end the marriage, you may have different ideas about who the children should live with, who gets the car, or who should live in the family home, and many other details of dividing a household and assets. The assets you and your spouse own could make the marriage dissolution process even more complex. Naturally, you want to ensure equitable distribution of property, appropriate spousal support, and if you have kids, that child support payments will be fair.
“When it comes to responsiveness, our firm goes above and beyond for our client. Find out how we balance compassionate and dedicated advocacy with aggressive legal representation.”
Melinda Previtera, Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers, Partner at Petrelli Previtera, LLC.
Philadelphia Area Divorce Attorney
At Petrelli Previtera, our attorneys help clients end their marriages as efficiently and successfully as possible. Every divorce is different, which is why we take the time to understand each client’s individual needs and goals and explore all options for the best resolution possible.
Some couples negotiate a divorce agreement outside of court, while others need to go to trial. Still, others may rely on or need help enforcing a prenup or postnup agreement that they previously made. No matter your unique situation, our firm can identify the best strategy for a great outcome. We will work with you to solve the complicated issues of child custody, child support, spousal support, and others that may arise in your divorce.
Your Property and Assets
One of the initial steps in a divorce is to identify and locate all marital assets and property that belong to the couple seeking a divorce. This could be the primary marital residence, rental units, or even vacation homes. For most couples, it involves at least a couple of bank accounts and vehicles. However, other assets considered in a divorce that will need to be divided can include:
- A family business
- Business executive benefits
- Stock options and restricted stock
- 401k accounts
- Military retirement accounts
- Other retirement accounts
- Motor vehicles
- Real Estate
- Intellectual property rights
- Paintings or other expensive collectibles
Whether you have all of these types of assets and more or just the bare minimum, we are here to ensure your interests are represented within your divorce and that the legal concept of equitable distribution is applied correctly and fairly in your case.
Finding and determining a value for all of these assets can be quite overwhelming. Depending on the types of assets you have, we may recommend using various financial experts such as a forensic accountant. It is vital to your divorce that all assets are found and correctly valued before the division of assets begins as once the order for asset division is finalized, no amendments can be made. Using these financial experts can be especially helpful if you believe your spouse could be hiding assets or devaluing the family business or other property.
Divorce statutes generally recognize that even in a marriage, there exists property belongs solely to one spouse and not the marriage itself. In general, the following are considered separate property in a divorce:
- Property owned by one spouse before the legal marriage began
- Gifts or inheritances received by one spouse before or during the marriage
- Property attained by one spouse (in their name only) during the marriage and not used by the other spouse or for the benefit of the marriage
- Property/debts designated as separate in a legally enforceable contract, such as a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement
- Personal injury awards, excluding any compensation for lost wages
- Any property obtained by one party using their separate property assets (such as inheritance funds) with the explicit intention of keeping the acquired property as separate
Even though these are labeled as separate property, you do have the option to use them in negotiations with your soon to be ex-spouse to keep other property that you may wish to keep. For example, perhaps you want to keep the vacation home, but you are willing to give your spouse the boat you bought with an inheritance from your grandmother that you received right after you were married.
Most states, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, adhere to the legal concept of equitable distribution when it comes to dividing property in a divorce. However, if you and your spouse can reach an agreement on how to divide your assets, a judge will not need to apply this concept. If you are unable to agree on a particular asset, a judge can make a determination regarding that asset only. No matter if you agree with your spouse or not about how your assets should be split at the end of your marriage, a knowledgeable divorce attorney from our firm can assist you in understanding property division laws.
Equitable distribution only applies to marital property and not separate property. It does not mean that the property is divided equally. Equitable distribution means that the courts divide marital assets in a manner that is fair but not necessarily equal. However, in many cases, this will become a 50/50 division of assets and only some in which a judge awards one party more than the other. To determine what equitable distribution means in each unique divorce situation, the courts will utilize some or all of the following factors:
- The financial state and earning power of each party
- The value of each spouse’s separate property, including a spouse’s business, business interests, retirement plans, 401(k) plans, stocks, and bonds
- The degree to which each spouse contributed to the procurement of marital property
- The degree to which each spouse contributed to the education and earning power of the other spouse
- Future financial needs and liabilities of each spouse
- The ages and overall health of each spouse
- The liquidity of their marital property
- If there are any premarital and prenuptial agreements
- Spousal maintenance or alimony obligations
While calling it quits on your marriage may end many obligations, it might not end them all. You may or may not have alimony obligations when your marriage comes to an end. Your well-versed divorce attorney from our firm can help you determine if you might owe or receive spousal support once your divorce is filed. Spousal support is awarded for the purpose of assisting the less well off spouse get a fresh start after the divorce. It is a form of financial assistance that partners can negotiate on their own or if they choose not to that a judge could award to one spouse.
Alimony recognizes the receiving partner’s contributions to the marriage; perhaps they were a stay-at-home parent raising the kids while the other partner focused on their career and obtaining wealth for the family. It can help one spouse achieve financial independence after the divorce. To determine if spousal maintenance payments should be awarded, the court will look at the following factors:
- Length of the couple’s legal marriage
- Each partner’s earning capacity
- Each partner’s contribution to household or career
- The physical health of the recipient
- The recipient’s ability to find gainful employment
Alimony payments can be made in one lump sum or in temporary or permanent installments. When determining how much spousal support and how long it may be needed, the court will examine the circumstances of each spouse.
All across the United States, it is legally upheld that biological or adoptive parents need to pay for their children’s upbringing. This includes times when the parents are not married. Child support payments are usually granted to the parent who will have the most physical custody of the children. They typically do not pay child support themselves as their provision of custody serves that purpose. Child support is supposed to be for the benefit of the child, allowing them to live comfortably as if their parents were still under one roof.
When a child support order is in place, the paying parent must make regular on-time payments for the support of their children. These monies are supposed to cover mainly housing, food, and clothing. While it is natural for the paying parent to want to know how the money is being spent, the receiving parent is not legally required to give such an accounting. Our attorneys cannot guarantee what your child support payments will be used for or that you will receive the amount of child support you believe is fair, we can help you negotiate a child support agreement with your spouse or we can work with the judge in your case to show them why you deserve what you do.
Sometimes the court will allow child support add-ons. These add-ons are increases in the amount of child support usually done as a percentage of the regular amount that meant for the purpose of paying additional costs. These costs could include:
- Medical insurance
- Extracurricular activities
- Educational expenses
You may feel burdened by how much child support your spouse or the courts believe you should pay, or you may be worried about making ends meet while receiving a low child support amount. Whatever your child support concerns may be now or even in the future, we can help you address them confidently to increase your chances of getting your financial wants and needs met.
Life circumstances rarely stay the same for too long. You get a raise, lose your job, get a promotion, or sustain an injury that requires you to take an extended time period away from work. Your child could require special education or medical care, or your ex-spouse could have another baby. When issuing orders for child custody and child support, the family court knows that sometime in the future, you might have a very valid reason for wanting to change either one of them. Because of this, they do allow you to submit a request to amend the child support or custody order.
If you believe your circumstances have changed enough to warrant an amendment to either of these elements, reach out to one of our dedicated divorce lawyers. Our legal team can help you determine if filing for an amendment is appropriate in your situation and what to ask for based on your changes in circumstance.
Typical circumstances in which the court will grant a child support modification include:
- The needs of the child have changed (for instance the child develops special medical or educational needs)
- One parent gets a different job with a higher income
- One parent involuntarily loses a job or experiences a decrease in their income
- One parent has become responsible for the support of a new child
- A marked change in how much time the child stays with each parent
- One parent has become disabled
- One parent has been incarcerated
- There have been notable changes in any of the other factors the court took into consideration when setting the existing order
One of the biggest concerns of parents in a pending divorce is who will get custody of the kids or how the custody will be split. At Petrelli Previtera, LLC, we know how these issues can keep you up at night, and it is our goal to get you the custody arrangement you believe is best for your family. After all, no one knows your family better than you do. We can help you negotiate a fair child custody agreement with your spouse, or if necessary, we can show a judge how your children need the custody arrangement you are proposing.
There are two types of custody that need to be determined for children whose parents are divorcing; physical and legal. Physical custody is the right to have your child live with you and involves the day-to-day care of the child. If a child primarily lives with one parent, that parent is considered the custodial parent while the non-custodial parent could be awarded visitation rights to see the child.
Legal custody is quite different than physical custody as it provides one parent the right and obligation to be the decision-maker for the child. The parent with legal custody will be the one to make decisions about where the child goes to school, their medical care, and what religion they will be raised to follow. In many custody cases, the parents are awarded joint legal custody, unless one of the parents is determined to be incapable of taking care of or making sound decisions for the child.
Whatever your custody goals are, we are here to help. Your attorney could review your current life circumstances to help you negotiate a custody settlement with your soon-to-be ex-spouse and, if necessary, could bring the information before a judge to help them side with you.
While many types of legal cases are important to your future, there are few that are as fundamentally important as divorce actions. In a divorce case, the judge will make decisions that will affect your financial future and family relationships. Everything from how much support you need to pay your ex-spouse to how much time you get to spend with your kids will be decided in your divorce case.
The process by which these decisions are made may seem confusing and difficult to understand. Pleadings must be filed in the exact formats required by the courts with the required information and by the established deadlines. If your pleading is not filed in the correct manner and with all of the required information then you may inadvertently compromise your rights.
It is not worth it – especially, when the help of a Pennsylvania family attorney can help you avoid problems and protect your rights.
Experienced Pennsylvania family lawyers know how and when to file pleadings. We know what evidence needs to be presented to the court and we know how to make effective arguments to the court. We know how to protect what is important to you by complying with all applicable rules and laws.
It can be very difficult to do this for yourself and without legal training. Thus, when your children, your property and future income are at stake, it is important to protect your rights by hiring a Pennsylvania family lawyer.
The Initial Consultation
Feel free to schedule a meeting through our online system or by calling the firm. Our lawyers are available for same-day consultations. During our first meeting, we will define your goals and consider any potential obstacles in getting exactly what you want in your divorce. We’ll discuss issues such as parental rights, custody, and division of property, and we will give you the best advice on how to protect your assets. We will also thoroughly address your questions. If you decide to retain us as your counsel, we can begin the process immediately after the first meeting. In some divorces, it can be challenging to estimate how long the process will take, but we will provide you with an estimate and our commitment to being there for you no matter how long it takes.
Your Advocate from Start to Finish
The law office of Petrelli Previtera secures our clients’ futures by uncovering hidden assets, making sure that property is fairly distributed, and that all income is disclosed and reflected in child support and spousal support agreements. We also help ensure that child custody is fair and in the best interest of yours and your children’s needs. Our divorce lawyers will stay with you every step of the way and put your needs and desires first. You have been through enough to get where you are today, so we’ll ensure the process is as easy and expedient as possible.
To get the legal divorce assistance you need, you can reach The Law Offices of Petrelli Previtera, LLC today at (215) 523-6900, chat with one of our live agents, or schedule your consultation online with one of the firm’s top Philadelphia divorce attorneys.
Contact Our Divorce & Family Law Lawyers for Assistance
Our divorce lawyers have years of experience representing clients and can help you move on to the next phase of your life quickly, efficiently and professionally. If you’re ready to discuss your legal options, let’s get started by scheduling an initial consultation. For your convenience, we have offices throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.