The division of property in divorce is a serious issue that requires thorough consideration. When a couple decides to end their marital relations, they normally start investigating questions like “Who gets what in a divorce? How should the husband’s property be allocated? What is a wife entitled to in a divorce settlement? When, where, and how to get a financial order after divorce?”, etc.
The concern is quite understood: when a person appears in changed circumstances, forced to transition from a married to a single status, they want to ensure their future is secure. Therefore, they need to know that when the judge issues a financial order after divorce, their new income will meet their new needs.
Yet, the questions about possible post-divorce claims are pretty frequent. What rights does an ex-wife have after we have resolved and settled all the disputes in a divorce judgment? Can an ex-husband be entitled to a part of the profit from selling the marital home? Many people worry if their new financial status can be disturbed by an ex years after the final orders have been established.
Let’s figure out if your ex-spouse can make any financial claims after the divorce has been finalized and the judge approved the final judgments, what they can potentially claim, and how you can protect yourself and your assets.
What Can My Ex Claim?
If you wonder, “What can a wife claim in a divorce?” or “What is my husband entitled to after marriage termination?”, note that each spouse can claim any part of marital property as long as it is justified by Pennsylvania law.
When a couple has a written agreement on splitting their assets, the judge can make it a part of the final orders. If they cannot agree on their own, the court will divide marital property the way it sees fair with no regard to marital misconduct after considering a range of factors as listed in 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 3502(a).
Then, what assets are protected in a divorce? In Pennsylvania, separate property is not divided under the equitable distribution principle. The types of property considered non-marital by the state laws are outlined in 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 3501(a).
In addition, any party can request alimony, which is financial support paid by one spouse to the other. The court decides its validity, type, amount, and duration after considering the factors that include but are not limited to:
- Marriage duration;
- Both parties’ needs, age, physical and mental health, and ability to pay;
- Both parties’ income, assets, liabilities, earning capacity, inheritance, education, and employability;
- Each party’s contribution to the education or enhanced earning capacity of the other party;
- Each party’s custodian obligations and the ability to fulfill them;
- Each party’s contribution as a homemaker (23 Pa.C.S.A. § 3701(b)).
Most often, men tend to be the primary breadwinners while their wives devote considerable time to caring for children and households. As a result, women often sacrifice their education and careers, contributing to and supporting their husbands’ professional growth. Overall, circumstances may often render women lower-earning and primary-custodial parties in the marriage.
Perhaps that’s why the most common inquiries from the users include: “Can my ex-wife claim money after divorce? Can the ex-wife claim inheritance after divorce? Can my wife take everything in a divorce?” and the like. However, asset distribution and alimony award are not gender-specific. Either party can be granted spousal support and assigned a larger share of property after divorce. Much depends on individual situations and circumstances, as seen from the lists of factors the court considers when making decisions on these matters.
So, let’s clear out the most basic principles.
- In Pennsylvania, the court divides marital property between the parties equitably, which is not always equally. So, all the assets you acquired jointly during your marriage will be distributed the way the judge considers fair.
- Separate property is not subject to distribution and is left with the owner party after divorce. Since assets obtained as a gift, bequest, devise, or descent from third parties are considered separate, your spouse is unlikely to claim your inheritance unless you mingled it with or turned it into marital property.
- One of the spouses cannot take everything since the marital property is distributed fairly so the parties can enjoy equitable shares, considering their separate assets, opportunities, needs, and parental responsibilities.
- For the same reason, you would not get a definitive answer if you ask, “How long do you have to be married to get half of everything?” Even the number of years in marriage won’t help you get half of all the marital property, though it will be considered during the distribution. Depending on your financial situation and contributions, you may get a bigger or a smaller share.
- Decisions on property division, alimony, and child support allocation are made in the course of the divorce process and entered into the final judgment the judge issues when the case is finalized.
Can a wife claim property after divorce, or can an ex-husband lay claim on the wife’s increased income after they have separated? Although it is unlikely that an ex may be permitted to claim anything after the final judgment has been issued, its later modification is possible. Let’s consider several examples of belated claims and renewed orders.
Child support and alimony orders are subject to modifications upon a substantial change in circumstances (23 Pa.C.S.A. § 3701(e)). So, if, with time, your income has improved, the children’s needs have enhanced, you have demonstrated any noncompliance with the previously entered orders, etc., your ex-spouse has the right to file a motion asking to modify the corresponding order. If approved, the court may oblige you to make bigger or longer payments.
If you fail to comply with the order of equitable property distribution at any point, the court has the right to impose penalties later, including monetary ones. Among other measures, it may seize any of your goods or profits, award interest on unpaid installments, order the sale of your property, etc. (23 Pa.C.S.A. § 3502(e)).
Similarly, if you concealed or provided false information about your assets during the divorce proceedings and your ex-spouse can prove it to the court, they may ask to revise the orders concerning property division.
National laws also provide for certain military and Social Security benefits former spouses are entitled to if they meet a range of conditions.
All these issues are rather sensitive to personal circumstances, however. That is why they must be considered individually and advisably, with the assistance of a legal professional who can help to figure out all their intricacies.
How Long after Divorce Can My Ex Make a Financial Claim against Me?
The time frame for any financial claims mostly depends on their nature.
Generally, the United States has no financial settlement after divorce time limit. The orders issued by the judge are definitive and ultimate, obliging ex-spouses to conform to them. However, if you ask a lawyer, “How long after divorce can I claim property from my ex?”, they would first ask you what exactly your claims are.
If you plan to file a motion for child support or alimony modification, you have the time till the corresponding order is in effect. Normally, such payments may be ordered for a definite or an indefinite period as determined by the court. So, after the order in question has expired, you cannot make any new claims or ask to modify it.
In case fraud, concealment of income or assets, or noncompliance with the issued orders took place, you may file a motion for modification as soon as you have discovered the misdeed. Mind that you must have solid proof for your motion to be satisfied.
The entitlement to the ex’s share of Social Security benefits has no time limits. So, you can receive your share any time after divorce, but only if you meet certain conditions defined by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Under the 10 U.S.C. 1448, the former spouses of service members can also be entitled to the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) payments if they were chosen as beneficiaries. These continuous lifetime annuity payments start after the retired member’s death. The eligibility has no time limit but may be canceled if the ex-spouse remarries before age 55 or under certain conditions pertaining to the beneficiary election.
However, you may avoid any possible claims in the future if you take appropriate measures of protecting assets from the spouse.
How to Protect Yourself?
To protect your own assets from unfair distribution or unjustified claims from the ex, you need to plan ahead and be cautious.
The divorce process can rarely be smooth and amicable. In most cases, it is extremely controversial and emotionally charged. Spouses may often act impulsively and do very unpleasant things in a fit of temper, only wishing to hurt the other party, choosing financial traps for their revenge. Therefore, knowing how to protect your money during divorce is imperative.
So, if you are at this stage and there is no way back, you would normally start wondering, “How do I protect myself financially in a divorce?”
We cannot teach you how to divorce your wife and keep everything or how to take all your husband’s assets and leave him with nothing since it’s next to impossible. The court will still need to divide everything equitably, whether you like it or not.
However, we can provide a few useful tips to prevent your personal possessions from being transferred to your ex and safeguard yourself from their unjustified claims.
Here are some strategies on how to protect assets from divorce:
Keep Your Personal Property Separate
While non-marital assets are not subject to division, they can easily become marital if you do not treat them properly. So, protecting your separate property in a divorce is the very first thing you should do.
Comingling your personal and joint assets transmutes separate property into marital. You may do this unknowingly if you:
- Deposit a portion of your family income into your own savings account;
- Deposit your personal proceeds into your family savings account;
- Use the funds from your personal account to contribute financially to your marital home;
- Put your spouse’s name on your separate asset.
Therefore, you must ensure that you do not mix your separate assets, including bank accounts, savings, and any other possessions, with marital ones.
Make a list of all your assets, divide them into marital and separate, and define the value for each. Ensure you have the records of all the property you owned before the marriage, gifts you received from the third parties, and inherited items and documentation that proves your sole ownership. Reliable evidence in the form of relevant financial papers can be a useful divorce asset protection tool. Therefore, it would be very helpful if you could collect original purchase receipts, financial statements from bank or investment accounts, agreement contracts for insurance coverages, property deeds, tax returns, etc. Any papers that can serve as evidence of your earnings and expenditures are good. If needed, you can also involve witnesses who can testify the facts of purchases or acquisitions. All these can prove your sole ownership of this or that item and protect it from division.
Change Beneficiary Designations
Usually, one needs to indicate a beneficiary in retirement plans, insurance policies, bank accounts, wills, etc. It’s quite understood that these beneficiaries are entitled to some portion of these accounts and benefits. So, if you do not want your ex to get more than you are ready to give them now, update your contracts and deals and change beneficiary designations. This way, you can be sure they will not lay any claims on your personal assets in the future.
Consider Premarital Agreement
Entering into a premarital agreement is probably the most reliable way to protect your assets. Of course, it may seem unnecessary and even somewhat offensive for someone in love on the eve of the wedding. However, the document may turn out to be the best decision as it provides a solid property settlement in a divorce.
In a premarital agreement, the parties can specify all the terms concerning their joint and personal property. More specifically, you can clearly define which assets are marital and separate, who owns this or that item, each spouse’s entitlement to each asset and its increase in value, etc. For the judge, it will serve as the primary guidance in property division decisions during your divorce.
Seek Legal Advice
Consider seeking legal advice to ensure that you do everything right to safeguard yourself from your ex’s unjustified claims. A professional attorney experienced in family matters can advise you on the right strategies for protecting your assets, help you draft a solid settlement agreement in your best interests, and assist you with other actions aimed at protecting your rights. It is always good to have a reliable backup in legal matters.