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GETTING MARRIED? TALK TO A LAWYER

Norris McLaughlin Attorneys Have Vast Experience in All Facets of Matrimonial Law

Preparing to get married is an exciting time in one’s life. It can also be a challenging time. Decisions about wedding venues, entertainment, catering, and guests can test everyone’s stress levels. Adding discussions about budgeting, children, household division of labor, and long-term financial planning may pose additional challenges, but the discussions are worthwhile. Marriage is, after all, a legal contract, and some knowledge and discussion about what the law provides can be extremely useful in helping couples plan their future.

A lawyer can advise you with respect to the legal rights and obligations that attach to spouses at the time of marriage. He or she can also talk to you about options for contracts, such as pre-marital agreements, that allow couples to re-define various aspects of the marriage contract in a way that can protect certain assets of a party, or even just define the financial landscape for a couple who does not feel that existing estate or divorce laws suit their individual needs. Attorneys at Norris McLaughlin, P.A. have experience in all aspects of matrimonial and family law, and can help clients consider options at the time of marriage and beyond. With the firm’s wide breadth of experience in virtually all areas of law, the matrimonial and family law attorneys are able to work collaboratively with business, tax, and estate planning attorneys to develop strategies and solutions for every situation.

A common misimpression is that if an asset is titled in a person’s individual name, that person’s spouse has no legal right to that property. In fact, with very few exceptions (including gifts and inheritances), the majority of assets acquired by people during their marriages are considered “marital property”, which means a court has the authority to divide those assets in a divorce. The increase in value of an asset brought by one party to a marriage is also considered a marital asset. “People should know that if they bring an existing asset to the marriage – a piece of real estate or an interest in a business or partnership – and the asset increases in value, that increase is subject to distribution in the event of a divorce,” says Lauren Sorrentino, Chair of the Norris McLaughlin Pennsylvania Matrimonial and Family Law Practice. Sorrentino also points out that defining “marital property” is one of the things she most frequently helps clients to adjust through the use of a pre-marital agreement. “A pre-marital agreement allows people the flexibility to create their own definitions of what will and will not constitute ‘marital property’. ”

Having realistic economic expectations can also prevent unpleasant surprises if the marriage does not work. For example, many people expect that infidelity will have a dramatic negative financial consequence to the spouse who committed it. Sorrentino explains that even if a party can prove “fault,” that fact will not be considered by a court as part of property distribution. Infidelity is one of many things a court can consider with respect to alimony, but the reality is that the law is designed to prioritize the effectuation of economic justice between divorcing couples. Whether someone was a bad actor frequently has much less impact than a party would like. “In the unfortunate event that a marriage does not work out, I find that people are much better served in the long run if they can focus on moving on with their lives, as opposed to who is the most ‘wrong’ in the relationship,” says Sorrentino.

The better educated couples are, the less pain they may experience if the marriage does not ultimately continue as planned.

Article by Lauren Sorrentino, Esq. Published in The Morning Call’s Valley Life & Health.