Understanding How COVID-19 Affects Property Division
One of the most common reasons that a divorce turns acrimonious is due to disagreements over property division. Unfortunately, things may get even more challenging in the future as the U.S. unemployment rate surpassed 13% in May. Many divorce attorneys are already starting to notice that routine property divisions are being complicated by the COVID-19 crisis.
Defining Non-Marital Property Is Trickier Without Definitive Separation
During the COVID-19 outbreak, many spouses realized that their relationships were no longer working. However, some of these couples are choosing to continue living together because of the challenges of raising children and finding new homes during the pandemic. This can lead to some issues because of the way Pennsylvania defines non-marital property. Non-marital property is anything you acquire before your wedding or after your separation, and it is not divided during a divorce.
Since Pennsylvania does not have any legal separation process, the date of separation is often just defined as the day one spouse moves out. However, when a couple is still living together and even sleeping in the same bedroom together, it can be hard to prove that separation has actually happened. This can lead to one spouse saying something is marital property while the other insists they acquired it after separation. A divorce lawyer could help you make sure that your actual date of separation is legally provable, even if you keep living with your spouse for the time being.
Assigning Value to Property May Be More Complex
Another potential roadblock to property division is all the economic uncertainty right now. Generally, Pennsylvania property division is about making sure each person has an equitable share of marital assets. If the couple does not agree on the value of an asset, though, it is hard to say whether or not each person has an equal amount. Due to COVID-19’s effect on the global economy, there are all sorts of assets that may have fluctuating value. These include the following:
- Real estate property
- Family-owned businesses
- Antiques and heirlooms
- Other investments
Some people may end up disagreeing because they think a property is likely to dip or rise in value once the virus is over. There is also the risk of a property suddenly rising or dropping in value before property division agreements can be finalized.
There May Be Disagreements About How to Handle Failing Properties
Another potential coronavirus property division problem that divorce lawyers are encountering right now involves disagreements about property liquidation. Usually, during a divorce, couples try to keep assets intact until they can be divided. However, with the virus harming many businesses and investment markets, this may not be an option. Many people are trying to sell businesses before they get further in debt or sell a stock before its price drops lower. When you and your spouse cannot agree on how to handle a failing property, things can get very bitter.
Handling sudden changes to major assets during a divorce is always a challenge. You need to monitor assets carefully to make sure your spouse does not do anything without your permission. If it is too hard to communicate with an ex-spouse yourself, you will need a lawyer who can help you reach an agreement. Remember, you need to document all agreements carefully, so it does not become a problem later on in the property division process.
The COVID-19 outbreak is likely to result in more complex property division cases. If you want to make sure you get your fair share, you need a knowledgeable divorce lawyer on your side. Joanne Kleiner has spent years helping Jenkintown residents through their divorces. Our office is happy to provide mediation to assist in a friendly divorce, and we are also willing to fight for you in court. During these challenging times, we are working remotely to meet our clients’ needs. You can call us at (215) 886-1266 or fill out our online contact form to get a virtual consultation for your divorce.