Property Division & Settlement Agreements

Property Division and Settlement Agreement

Dividing up your money, debts and everything in your home can be one of the most contentious and emotionally wrenching parts of any divorce.

You may be afraid that you and your children will have to move out of your home.  You may feel worried or angry about giving your spouse things that you worked hard for.  You may know little about the household finances and be unsure whether there are assets or debts, or whether your spouse is hiding things from you.

Here at the LaMantia Law Firm, property division and settlements are a big part of what we do.  So we understand the stress of dividing what’s left of your life together.

Even if you think you know how you want to split your property, it’s important to consult with a lawyer who understands the laws related to property division.  A lawyer can explain your rights and will probably think of things you hadn’t considered.  Both Anthony and Allison LaMantia have extensive experience with property settlements and have spoken at seminars to teach other lawyers how to draft property settlement agreements.

Our experience tells us that in most cases, you and your spouse will eventually be able to agree on a property settlement – no matter how unlikely that seems at first. People sign marital settlement agreements because

  • Litigating a divorce all the way to trial is very expensive;
  • An agreement lets you decide the major issues in your divorce rather than having them decided by a judge who doesn’t know you; and
  • A settlement agreement can allow you to conclude the divorce process more quickly.

At the LaMantia Law firm, we gather information, evaluate your true financial picture and explain which property must be divided, and which is yours alone.  We will work hard to help you make a settlement that achieves your goals and prepares you to move forward with your life.

And if a settlement isn’t possible, we will aggressively represent you at trial.

How Property Division Works in South Carolina

In South Carolina, there are two ways to divide marital property: either the parties can agree on a property division or the court can order one.  In legal terms, “property” doesn’t just mean a piece of land – it refers to anything that you own, including furniture, jewelry, cars, cash, investments, and even debts.

The first step in any property division is to determine which property is “marital property” that must be divided between you and your spouse. In general, property that you inherited, received as a gift, or  owned before you got married is non-marital property that already belongs to you – it does not get divided as part of the divorce.  Property that you acquired during your marriage is marital property.

In South Carolina, marital property is “equitably apportioned” between the husband and wife.  This means that the division of property must be fair, but it does not necessarily have to be equal.

If you can’t agree on how to divide your property, a judge will assign a value to your marital property.  The judge will then divide the property between you and your spouse, taking these factors into consideration:

  • The length of the marriage and the parties’ ages at the time of marriage and divorce;
  • Marital misconduct or fault, if it affected the parties’ economic circumstances or contributed to the breakup of the marriage;
  • The value of the marital property and the contribution of each spouse to that value;
  • Each spouse’s income and earning potential;
  • Each spouse’s physical and emotional health;
  • Each spouse’s need for additional training or education;
  • Each spouse’s non-marital property;
  • The existence of vested retirement benefits for either spouse;
  • Whether separate maintenance or alimony has been awarded;
  • The desirability of awarding the family home to the spouse who has custody of the children;
  • Tax consequences;
  • The existence of support obligations from a prior relationship;
  • Liens and debts;
  • Child custody arrangements; and
  • Any other relevant factors.

Anthony and Allison LaMantia have the experience and understanding to help you resolve the property issues in your divorce.  They can prepare a settlement agreement that divides your property and also resolves other issues including child custody, visitation and support and alimony.   Call for a free consultation.