Q: We are separated, and I want the house now and her name off my deed for good. What does she sign? (Jefferson Hills, PA)
A: If her name is on the deed with your name, her signature or a judge’s signature is the only way to remove her name from deed. If she doesn’t agree to take her name off, you will have to negotiate with her and probably buy her out. This is what the family court will do when you proceed with your divorce. I suggest a consultation with a lawyer as I do not have all the facts here.
Q: Wife was in an accident last March 2017. Vehicle was in my name. The girl responsible for the accident insurance company offered wife a settlement and she declined stating she was getting a personal injury attorney to represent her. (Circa September/October 2017) The personal injury attorney tells us we will get about 20K settlement. Wife and I have a conversation (both in-person and through text) since receiving that information up until April 21, 2018 about how we planned on utilizing the money. (i.e., Investing it, down payment for a new car, etc., etc.) Then April 24, 2018 she leaves me and files for divorce in June 2018. Since then our divorce has been at a standstill because she refuses to give me any of the settlement payout. So, if the divorce gets finalized before she receives the payout, am I still entitled to the settlement? Also, if the settlement gets paid out to her and our divorce isn’t finalized, am I still entitled to the settlement? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: The only time frame that matters is what was your marital status when the accident occurred. When the proceeds of the settlement are paid does not matter. There is new case law on this, so I advise you to consult with an experienced family law attorney. As the law stands now, if the accident occurred between the date of marriage and the date of separation, the proceeds of the settlement are marital property.
Q: My parents bought the house in 1977 and divorced about 10 years ago. Mom’s name was never removed from deed and dad passed away 4 months ago with no will. I am the only child and am ok with my mom selling the house. The deed doesn’t state anything about survivorship or tenants in common. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: If there is no written divorce settlement agreement that address how the house is to be distributed, upon the divorce decree, it changes from husband and wife tenants by the entirety’s property, to tenants in common property. As tenants in common, they each own a divisible equal share. This means your father’s share passed into his estate and will be inherited by the heirs he named in his will or if he had no will by his intestate heirs. If he did not remarry, then his intestate share of the house would pass to his child or children in equal shares. Your mother can only sell her 50% share. If you and your siblings if you have any, wish to sell you can sell if you wish. If you do inherit one half, you need to pay inheritance tax and should speak with a lawyer. I would check your mother’s records and if not check their divorce file with the Allegheny County Department of Court Records.
Q: My husband and I haven’t been together in a year. We are not legally separated nor has the divorce started. We have 2 vehicles both purchased since we have been married but both unfortunately in his name. We’re living in 2 different states, myself in PA and him in Ohio. There haven’t been any issues as far as the vehicles go unit now. Last week his transmission went out and now he is demanding my car. If this was “my” car bought while together married both of us paying for the vehicle is he able to take it and or report the vehicle stolen? My car is the only belonging I am left with. Thanks in advance! (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: You will have a good argument when the court divides your property in the divorce action, in that regardless of who is on the title, it is marital property. However, as to here and now, he is on the title and if he wants to, he can try to take it. The police may or may not let him do it. They are not going to involve themselves in a driveway divorce settlement. They may be persuaded that he has the title. Or, knowing that you are married, they may tell him to hit the road and talk to his divorce lawyer. You may want to tell your local police what is going on in just in case. What you can do is keep the car in a garage, hidden or blocked in, if that is possible. The police will not take a stolen vehicle report where the alleged perpetrator is the wife. In the meantime, you may be able to have an attorney file an emergency motion to give you exclusive possession of the car, pending the divorce proceedings. You may also tell him that such a foolish act will hasten your filing of a spousal support complaint. If his behavior turns to harassment, you can file for protection under the Protection from Abuse (PFA) statute.
Q: I have filed the Praecipe to Transmit Record for my divorce in Allegheny County, PA. When I track the status of my divorce online, it says that the file was sent to Family Court. Approximately how long should it take for the divorce to be finalized? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: It can take anywhere from ten days to two or three weeks to receive a Decree in Divorce from the Family Division. That is, assuming the paperwork you submitted is all correct. If it is not, you will receive a little card in the mail telling you how to correct your papers and what you need to resubmit.
Q: When my agreement was made I was living with my elderly father in his home. He has since passed away. In his will the house was given to my brother, sister and myself. The problem for me now is that I must take a mortgage out to give my siblings their equal 1/3 of what the property is worth. My income after my financial obligations is maxed out and does not leave me the ability to pay on a mortgage. In fact, I do not have the ability to find a place to rent if we sold the house outright. The only reason that I was staying afloat was that I did not have a mortgage or rent payment to pay. Unfortunately, this was not considered when I signed a totally one-sided agreement. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: No one can answer this without looking at the agreement. If the agreement was incorporated and not merged into the divorce decree and the 30-day appeal period has lapsed, any terms agreed upon including alimony are probably binding. An experienced divorce attorney will know whether there is any chance of modification by looking at it.
Q: My husband had a pretty nasty divorce and his ex-wife has made comments to their adult children that “she has plans to sue me in the case that he dies”. Does she have this right and can she sue if we have a good will in place? (Jeanette, PA)
A: Once divorced she no longer has rights to inherit from him under the intestacy (no will). In his new will he can leave his property to whomever he wishes with no obligation to her. As a precaution, he may want to check his insurance policies, annuities, 401Ks and other non-probate property to make sure he has removed her as a beneficiary, and replaced her with someone else. This is not a difficult process. It usually involves calling the financial company and having them mail you a change of beneficiary form. The forms are often on-line. I would make an appointment with a local attorney for a will and other estate planning documents.
Q: My husband and I have been separated for more than three years and I sent him the uncontested divorce, how he won’t answer my phone calls. My father recently passed away and he thinks he will get something out of my father’s estate. How should I handle this? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: When one of the parties in a divorce is not agreeable, it is considered contested. If he will not accept service, hire a constable. If he will not accept other papers or fails to respond, you probably need an attorney. There are a whole set of procedures and deadlines that must be followed to provide notice to him and prove that he has been served with the necessary papers. If he still ignores the paperwork and continues to fail to respond, he will in effect waive his rights, and a divorce will be granted. An attorney will know how to do this. To my knowledge, an inheritance is not subject to a marital claim. Make sure he knows this and maybe he will cooperate.
Q: I have been living in a mobile home with my mother for the past six years. She just recently passed away and the mobile home is in both her name and her ex-husbands. He wants to pay off the mobile home and sell it. Are both their signatures needed to sign the title over? (West Mifflin, PA)
A: You need an attorney to look at their divorce papers as well as the title to the mobile home. The divorce papers can be found in the Department of Court Records in the City County Building or you may be able to access them at the Allegheny County DCR website. Many divorces end with a settlement agreement which spells out each party’s rights in regards to property. If there is no such agreement, then the answer lies in how the mobile home was titled. If it was titled as husband and wife, it would have been held by the entireties (survivorship) up until the divorce. The divorce would have severed the entireties and then the mobile home by operation of law would have been held as tenants in common. Tenants in common is a joint interest with no survivorship. Therefore, if this is the case, the ex-husband and your mother’s heirs now own it. The ex-husband needs the signature of your mother’s estate. Again, the paperwork needs to be looked at before this advice can be followed.