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: Wife works full-time job making $75,000.00 per year. The husband is on Social Security disability, makes $24,400 per year. Husband has no assets (except his truck). The wife has retirement savings and stock options worth roughly $1.8 million. When divorcing in PA, is husband entitled to 1/2 of the wife’s net worth? What about spousal support if the husband was to get his own place to live (they currently live in the same place, although separated within that home) and move out? (North Strabane Twp., PA)
A: PA is an equitable distribution state when it comes to the division of marital property. This means the court tries to cut the pie in a manner that is fair, given many factors. including education, income, career prospects, other assets, the contribution of the parties, debts, etc. Generally, if you are the lesser of two earners with less income potential, you may get a larger share of the marital estate, but this is not always the case.
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: Can the State view my mother’s home as an asset in determining my step dad’s eligibility for Medicaid? My mom has owned her home in her own name for 40 years. She married my step father 35 years ago but left the house in her name. He is now going to require hospitalization in a nursing facility. Is her house at risk?
A: All assets of husband and wife, regardless of how titled, are considered available assets for Medicaid eligibility. It often happens in late-in-life or second marriages that couples keep real estate or financial accounts separate in their own name. It really doesn’t matter for Medicaid. Medicaid will count assets of husband and wife, regardless of how titled. This is true even if there is a pre-nuptial agreement saying to the effect that the assets of one are separate and not available to the other spouse. These sorts of agreements are no concern to Medicaid as they count assets of both spouses regardless of the prenuptial or ante nuptial agreement. This is true even if the wife brings a million dollars into the marriage the husband brings very little and they keep their accounts separate. It would not matter to Medicaid as they would have the wife “spend down” most of her savings on his nursing home bills. This can be prevented with a skilled elder care attorney as he or she would know how to preserve the couple’s assets and savings for the at home spouse. This is true even if the rich spouse went into the nursing home. A portion of the assets may be able to be preserved for whomever they wished, including the spouse or other family member.