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Jefferson County, West Virginia, Family Law Blog

Property division may not be what you expect

Most people are quite attached their property, and understandably so. Whether it is the perfect couch that one spent months shopping for or a favorite book that holds a great deal of sentimental value, a person's property often feels like an extension of him or herself. This can make dealing with property division during divorce -- an already emotionally-trying process -- incredibly difficult. However, understanding how the process works in West Virginia can help ease most people's worries.

Only marital assets get divided during a divorce. This means that a person's separate property -- including personal gifts and assets they accumulated before marriage -- will not be subject to property division. Marital property will then be split up according to equitable distribution, which is probably different than what most people expect.

What happens to my retirement account if I get divorced?

As the divorce rate of baby boomers, otherwise known as “gray divorce,” continues to climb, divorce questions regarding retirement savings are being added to a conversation that previous revolved around child custody.

There are some situations in which the retirement accounts you have worked to build may be separated between you and your ex-spouse if you choose to divorce. Here are a few helpful guidelines to help layout your expectations.

Joint child custody and support -- how does it work?

Parents usually understand how important it is to focus on their child's best interests during the divorce process. When deciding on child custody matters, data and research seems to support that most children benefit from joint custody situations. While this might vary based on unique family needs, many West Virginia families are now utilizing joint custody. However, this raises some understandable questions regarding child support. 

If a child's parents share joint custody, they may spend equal amounts of time physically caring for their child. This means that both parents are buying groceries, paying for housing and other daily costs associated with child-rearing. Does support really come into play in these situations? In the end, most likely. There are still those non-daily costs to consider, such as school fees and health care that one parent might end up unfairly shouldering more than the other.

Young couples less likely to divorce

The age at which the average American says "I do" for the first time is higher than decades past. Now, instead of walking down the aisle shortly after high school graduation, many young adults in West Virginia are focusing on college and their careers. Although there may be some who worry about what this means for marriage, it seems to be having a positive impact on divorce. That is, those who end up getting married seem to be in it for the long haul. 

A prominent sociologist recently pointed out that the drop in divorce rates has surprised most professionals. When he obtained his doctorate back in the 1970s, it was widely believed that the divorce rate would continue to climb steadily as it had been doing since the middle of the 1800s. What experts failed to predict was the shift in marriage demographics. Couples with only high school degrees are increasingly not getting married, while those who are college-educated are more likely to marry, but only after establishing themselves first. 

Settling can be good for your divorce

Settling is often given a negative connotation. Teens and young adults in West Virginia are frequently told to not settle when it comes to their dream job, house or partner, giving many the idea that settling in any aspect of life is an inherently bad thing. However, when it comes to divorce, settling is not necessarily a bad thing. 

Unless someone wants to wind up dragging their feet and checkbook through court, negotiating is a necessary part of divorce. However, the point of negotiations is not to wind up with everything that a person wants. Negotiations should instead be viewed as a way to achieve some of what both people want. This means letting go of things that would be nice to get and focusing on what is most important to a person, whether that be keeping the family home or working out a better parenting schedule. 

What grandparents seeking visitation rights need to know

Sometimes, parents have issues or obligations that make it necessary for a grandparent to step in and help with children. Other times, grandparents may have issues with their child or their child’s spouse that make it difficult to visit with their grandchildren.

West Virginia law recognizes visitation rights for grandparents. Courts can order a custody or visitation arrangement to grandparents, depending on the circumstances. Read on to learn more about the factors considered when courts make custody and visitation decisions involving grandparents.

Owning a home after divorce could help women's retirement

Young adults are often told they must work and save with one, final goal in mind -- retirement. Most West Virginia workers dutifully contribute to employer-provided retirement savings accounts and some even establish their own. People spend decades of their lives saving for the period of time in which they will be able to sit back and just relax. But what happens when divorce throws a wrench in your retirement plans? 

In general, women tend to take a harder financial hit during divorce. A 2008 study found that divorced men's incomes typically increase by about a third, while divorced women's incomes fall by nearly a fifth. This can make saving for retirement difficult on more than one account. Not only do divorcees usually divide their retirement savings with their ex, but women have less to save afterwards. Some may even begin to worry that they will never be able to retire. 

For a more successful property division, leave emotions out of it

Property, assets and personal items often have significant emotional value to the owner. However, few people in West Virginia realize just how strongly they feel about their things until they are in the middle of a divorce. Property division can be one of the most contentious issues you will deal with when ending your marriage. 

Although it may feel difficult or even impossible, separating your emotions from the task at hand is important during this process. An easy way to engage in the property division in this manner is to simply set out identifying marital property and separate property. Separate property is anything that is solely yours, such as items you obtained before marriage or were gifted later on. 

Could another state's law set a new precedent in divorce?

When creating and freezing embryos, West Virginia couples typically create an agreement about how they will handle unforeseen incidents, such as the ending of their marriage or a sudden death. However, a new out-of-state law appears to supersede those agreements. Determining how to handle frozen embryos during a divorce has long been a difficult issue in family law, and this new law could potentially set a precedent that other states may follow.

Couples freeze embryos for any number of reasons. Perhaps they are both focused on their careers or are struggling to conceive, but the main goal is usually always the same -- to produce a child. However, couples can agree that if they divorce that they will destroy the embryos or that one or both parties may still use them at any time. For couples in a different state, this decision may be out of their hands.

Millennials head off property division disputes with prenups

Delaying marriage in favor of advancing a career is perhaps as millennial as it gets. Many people in West Virginia want to have a more secure job and stronger financial foundation before tying the knot, which is understandable, but it can present problems. What is a person to do when he or she brings significant assets into a marriage? For most, a prenuptial agreement that addresses property division is the smartest approach. 

A whopping 71 percent of millennials told Wakefield Research for Graebel that they would put off marriage if it meant they could relocate to a more desirable location for their jobs. Another 72 percent reported they would wait to have kids for the same reason. This attitude is a defining feature of the millennial generation, as they work to build their careers and acquire essential life assets, like retirement savings. The idea of suddenly having to take something an individual worked for years to achieve and split it up during divorce is disconcerting. 

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