Are Non-Custodial Parents Responsible for College Tuition in West Virginia?

There’s no shortage of challenges in a West Virginia divorce, and for many couples, children’s college funding is a source of contention. College expenses have increased dramatically in recent years, far outpacing income growth and making college inaccessible for a growing number of college students. It’s important, then, for couples to decide early on how they will cover their children’s college expenses. But there’s a difference between what parents would like to do and what they are legally obligated to do—and that distinction often comes up during divorce.

Learn more about parents’ obligations after divorce, and to discuss your divorce case in greater detail, call Pence Law Firm at 304-345-7250 and set up a consultation.

What the Law Says Regarding College Expenses

While some states have addressed college funding as it relates to divorce, West Virginia has no law on the books outlining a parent’s requirement to cover their child’s college expenses. When child support covers educational expenses, that relate to K-12 expenses, such as private school tuition, school fees, and school supplies.

This doesn’t mean that divorcing parents can’t be required to cover college expenses for their children; it means that divorce proceedings do not automatically require parents to cover their children’s college expenses, regardless of income. But you can still negotiate college funding as part of your divorce agreement, although you may have to give up considerable concessions to do so.

What if College Funding is Important to You?

Finding out that the court will not automatically require one or both parents to pay for children’s college costs can be disappointing, particularly if you’re in a situation where one spouse earns significantly more than the other. This is often the case in high-asset divorces. However, you do still have leverage. There is a lot of room for negotiation in divorce proceedings, and if college costs are a top priority for you, you can approach your divorce negotiations accordingly.

Parents are free to include specific provisions in their divorce settlement agreement. They may choose to require that each parent cover a specific percentage of college expenses, require that one or both parents contribute up to a certain amount each year, outline the specific expenses that are included, and specify how payments are to be made. Unless one or both parents are extraordinarily wealthy, it’s helpful to have a cap on how much either party can be expected to contribute each year—you never know how college costs may increase in coming years.

Navigating College Funding

If you want to ensure that your divorce agreement includes provisions for college funding, it’s important to discuss this with your Charleston divorce attorney as soon as possible. They can look at the assets and income of both spouses, determine the best approach for negotiating college funding, and decide on a strategy that’s most likely to result in a favorable outcome. However, don’t forget to consider your needs as you start this next stage of your life. While it’s important to provide for your children’s future needs, you don’t want to do so at the expense of your own financial stability and well-being.

What if you are unable to negotiate college funding during the divorce process? You may want to help your children plan ahead. On your end, you can look into a 529 college fund that provides you with tax advantages and sets aside money for college. Your child can begin looking for scholarships early on in their education and contribute winnings to their college savings. There are thousands of scholarships available for students, both on a national level and just within the state of West Virginia.

There are also other forms of financial aid that can help bridge the gap between college savings and final costs. Pell grants, forgivable loans, and other options can help your child attend school without excessive student debt.

Plan for Your Divorce with Pence Law Firm

The earlier you begin planning for your Charleston divorce, the more time your divorce attorney has to plan and negotiate on your behalf. Start now by setting up a time to talk to one of our experienced family law attorneys. Just call us at 304-345-7250 or reach out online now.

Are Stock Options Marital Property in a West Virginia Divorce?

Divorce can be an incredibly complex and mentally demanding process. If you’re going through a high-asset divorce, you may also be struggling with the division of complex and valuable assets. In particular, stock options awarded as part of one spouse’s employment or their role as an executive officer can be difficult to divide fairly.

If you’re wondering how your or your spouse’s stock options may be handled during divorce, it’s important to explore your options and next steps with the team at Pence Law Firm. Call us at 304-345-7250 to set up a consultation right away.

The Timing of the Stock Options

A huge part of determining whether or not stock options are marital property is their timing. You’ll have to look at the documentation regarding when the stock options were granted. For example, if the individual received stock options prior to getting married, it’s possible that those stocks will be considered separate property—but that’s not guaranteed. We’ll discuss complicating factors below.

If stock options were awarded to one party during the marriage, it’s more likely that those stocks would be considered marital property and would be divided equitably between both spouses as outlined under West Virginia law.

Even if stock options are considered separate property because they were awarded prior to marriage, they may ultimately become marital property if they increase substantially in value during the marriage. Consider, for example, a CEO with extensive stock options. Many of their stocks were granted prior to marriage. However, after getting married, they made major changes within the company that led to the stocks increasing dramatically in value. The other spouse may claim that this increase in value was due to their work at home which allowed their spouse to focus more on their work.

The Vesting Schedule of the Stock Options

However, it’s more complicated than that. You can’t just look at when the stock options were granted—you must also consider when the stock options became fully vested. The vesting schedule refers to when the employee in question is permitted to exercise those stock options. 

For example, if an employee receives a set number of stock options and a percentage becomes vested after two years, the employee can only actually access the partial value of those stocks after two years. 

As you may imagine, this becomes complicated if the marriage ends before all stocks become vested. If the employee has stock options that fully vest over a period of five years but divorces their partner three years in, the court may determine that 60% of the stock options are marital property. This becomes even more complex if the employee receives stock options each year as part of their bonus or general compensation, as each year’s set of stock options will be vested at different levels at the time of divorce.

The Role of the Stock Options in Employment

Another factor you must consider is why the employee receives the stock options in the first place. Perhaps the spouse in question is an executive who made cost-saving cuts during the year. As a reward for their efforts, they receive stock options as part of their year-end bonus. These stock options are compensation for work already completed.

In another example, an employee is working for a startup. The pay is lower than market standards, so in order to encourage employee retention, employees receive stock options that they can only exercise if they stay with the company for a set period of time. In this scenario, the stock options may be considered compensation for future work.

The reason you receive stock options may determine whether or not they are marital property. If they are compensated for work already completed and that work occurred during the marriage, those stock options could arguably be considered marital property. If the stock options are granted during the marriage but they are compensation for work completed after divorce, they may be viewed as separate property.

Facing Divorce? Contact Pence Law Firm Today

This is clearly a complicated and multifaceted issue in your Charleston divorce, so it’s important to explore your specific situation with a family law attorney. Set up a consultation with Pence Law Firm now by calling us at 304-345-7250 or reaching out to us online.

Navigating the Emotional and Financial Challenges of a High-Asset Divorce

People often assume that having more money makes every aspect of life easier. While it can definitely take the edge off of certain problems, it can become a significant liability during divorce. High-asset divorces tend to be much more time-consuming than standard divorces, simply because there is so much to fight over and divide fairly. As you prepare for your divorce, it’s crucial to know what to expect and understand your options.

Ready to start your Charleston divorce case? Call Pence Law Firm at 304-345-7250 to set up a consultation with our team right away.

The Importance of a Comprehensive Financial Assessment

Before you can make any real plans or decisions regarding your high-asset divorce, you need an extensive assessment of your finances. This goes beyond your bank account balances, extending to an entire inventory of your assets, balances of retirement accounts, and information about when each of these assets was acquired. 

For example, if you had a high-value retirement account prior to getting married, much of it may be considered separate property—but anything you contributed to it during your marriage would be considered marital property, which means it would likely be divided.

You’ll also want to document the various income streams funding your marriage. This is an issue that most couples don’t have to worry about, but high-net-worth couples often have lots of income streams that must also be handled appropriately during divorce.

Exploring the Division of Assets

West Virginia, like most other states, follows the legal principle of equitable distribution. This means that assets must be divided in a way that is fair and just, not necessarily in a way that is equal. This allows the court to take a number of factors into account when deciding how assets should be handled, including each party’s earnings, each party’s earning potential, custody decisions, health concerns on either side, and each party’s contributions to the marriage.

This is often the most time-consuming part of a high-asset divorce. The more assets you have, the longer it takes to negotiate what happens to them. It’s important to have a game plan before you start negotiations, which means knowing what your priorities are and where you have some wiggle room.

The Role of Alimony

It’s also important to think about the role of spousal support or alimony in your high-asset divorce. Spousal support isn’t assumed in West Virginia, but it plays a role in a lot of high-asset divorces. If one party stayed at home as a homemaker or stay-at-home parent during the marriage, there’s a good chance the other party will need to provide them with spousal support. 

The amount and duration of spousal support are determined by numerous factors, including the length of the marriage, the financial assets of each partner, how the assets are divided, what each party contributed to the marriage, and whether or not the lower-earning spouse is likely to become self-sustaining at any point in the future.

The Emotional Issues of a High-Asset Divorce

The emotional challenges you may face during a high-asset divorce may take much longer to grapple with than the financial side of your split. It’s likely that you and your spouse built your empire together, and divorce means the end of everything you’ve worked so hard on. Seeing the assets, businesses, and income streams you’ve created together picked apart piece by piece can be extremely painful, and trying to figure out how to navigate family life as a single parent only adds to the burden.

It is crucial that you protect your mental health during this time and get the support you need to navigate your emotional needs. Many people find it helpful to work with a licensed therapist or counselor. You may also seek solace in a local divorce support group, where you can talk to others going through the same difficulties as you.

Explore Your Legal Options with Pence Law Firm

The team at Pence Law Firm is here to help you work through your high-asset divorce and fight for what you need in your post-divorce life. Let’s sit down and discuss your needs—call us at 304-345-7250 or send us a message online to get started.

The Growing Issue of Cryptocurrency During a Divorce

While cryptocurrency has brought an entirely new group of investors to the world of finance and provided new investment opportunities, it has also made a number of issues more complicated. In particular, divorce can be especially challenging when one party invests a substantial amount of money in cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency is naturally harder to track than more conventional types of currency, and if one partner doesn’t even know that they should be looking for cryptocurrency, they could get a smaller share of the marital assets than they deserve.

That’s why it’s important to work with a Charleston divorce attorney with extensive experience in cryptocurrency and other trends that may affect the outcome of your split. Call Pence Law Firm at 304-345-7250 to set up a consultation with our team at your earliest convenience.

Volatile Value

One of the most difficult aspects of cryptocurrency is its constantly fluctuating value. While stocks are also prone to dramatic drops and increases, these types of drastic changes are far more commonplace across the realm of cryptocurrency. This can make it extremely difficult to get a fair valuation on cryptocurrency, as its value during negotiations could be significantly higher or lower than its value when the divorce is finalized. Any massive change in value could require an entirely new division of assets in order to preserve the split of assets previously agreed upon.

Identification and Tracing

In many cases, even identifying and finding cryptocurrency can be a challenge. This is where it’s often helpful to turn to a forensic accountant with experience in cryptocurrency and digital assets. Those who spend a substantial amount of money and time on their cryptocurrency trades may have multiple wallets in which they keep their crypto, which can make it easy to “disclose” some assets while actually having the majority of them stashed away. 

This is especially risky when one partner is heavily into cryptocurrency and the other knows almost nothing about it. Furthermore, it is relatively easy to trade cryptocurrency multiple times in quick succession, which makes it far harder for outside parties to trace the transactions and figure out where the money ultimately ended up.

Disclosure and Hidden Cryptocurrency

The novelty of cryptocurrency means that the divorce courts haven’t quite caught up with it. Many individuals are relying on their spouses to do the right thing and disclose their assets, including those they would otherwise not know about—and that is not a risk you want to take when your financial future is on the line. 

If you don’t know that your spouse dabbles in cryptocurrency, there could be tens of thousands of dollars of assets that you don’t even know about. The good news is that those who are into cryptocurrency are often fairly talkative about it, so unless they’ve been trying to hide these assets from you from the very beginning, there’s a good chance you’ll know about their investments.

Division of Cryptocurrency

Fairly dividing cryptocurrency can be a point of contention during a divorce. First, there’s the issue of fair valuation, which we discussed earlier. Second, once you agree upon a split, you have to decide what to do with the cryptocurrency. There’s a very real possibility that the spouse who was previously uninterested in cryptocurrency is still uninterested, and they won’t want to go through the steps of making a wallet and getting set up on a trading platform. However, simply exchanging the cryptocurrency for cash can trigger additional taxes for the party who does the trading, which further complicates the division of assets. 

Offsetting the value of the cryptocurrency with another asset is a common solution. Not only does it allow the crypto-interested partner to keep their cryptocurrency and let it keep growing, but the party without any interest in cryptocurrency can get their share without having to learn an entirely new vocabulary.

Choose Pence Law Firm for Your Divorce

Wondering about how cryptocurrency will affect your divorce and the division of your marital assets? The team at Pence Law Firm can help you explore your options and come up with a plan. Reach out online or call us at 304-345-7250 to set up a consultation with our team of experienced divorce lawyers.

The Role of a Forensic Accountant in a High Asset Divorce

High-asset divorces are considerably more complicated than standard divorces. The more money and assets a couple brings to the table, the more work it generally is to sort them out fairly. It’s particularly complicated when there are numerous income streams that are difficult to track, hidden assets, and assets that fluctuate significantly in value.

That’s why it’s important to have an attorney with experience in high-asset divorces. We understand the importance of carefully tracking assets and income, and we know the benefits of working with a forensic accountant. Call Pence Law Firm at 304-345-7250 to set up a consultation with our team of Charleston divorce lawyers.

What Do Forensic Accountants Do?

Forensic accountants are financial professionals who have extensive training in investigative techniques and their use in evaluating financial records and evidence. Forensic accountants apply their expertise to account records, transaction logs, tax documents, and other financial documentation. Their experience puts them in a position to identify irregularities and discrepancies, as well as provide expert opinions about the sources of funds and assets.

In divorce cases, forensic accountants are often brought in to identify and value income streams, as well as to identify and track down hidden assets. They are particularly helpful in divorces where one spouse has full control of financial accounts, and the other spouse is entirely in the dark about their financial well-being.

Asset Tracing and Valuation

One of the responsibilities of a forensic accountant is identifying and valuing marital assets to ensure the equitable distribution of those assets. Their financial analysis skills allow them to prove accurate valuations and track down assets that may have gotten lost over time—for example, retirement accounts or old bank accounts that have sat unused for years. Asset tracing is especially important when one spouse is attempting to avoid the fair distribution of marital assets. They may give away or sell assets for below market value with the plan of getting them back after the divorce.

Income Stream Analysis

High-asset divorces often have numerous income streams, which can make it difficult to get an accurate financial picture of the couple’s annual income and overall financial value. Forensic accountants can analyze annual incomes, bonuses, rental income, executive stock options, business profits, and dividends. They do this by digging through financial statements, bank records, tax returns, and other financial documentation to identify every way a couple earns money. 

This is incredibly important when it comes to calculating spousal support and child support. It’s also important when it comes to dividing assets, as those same assets may be tied to income streams. For example, a rental property or family business may make up a sizable chunk of the family’s income. Fairly dividing those assets is easier when you know the true value of the income streams.

Cash Flow Investigation

This skill is crucial when one spouse is entirely dependent on the other for financial support and information. When only one spouse has access to the couple’s finances, it is very easy for them to manipulate and misdirect their partner. In turn, this makes it incredibly difficult for the partner who isn’t involved in the finances to get far less than they deserve during the divorce. 

A forensic accountant may look for irregularities or discrepancies that don’t match up with a couple’s financial documents. In doing so, they may find ways that the spouse who handles the finances has accrued substantial debt, committed tax fraud, supported their affair partner with marital finances, or attempted to hide income streams and assets from their partner. In uncovering these acts of deceit, the forensic accountant gives the other partner the information they need to fight for what they deserve during divorce. A fair divorce settlement is only possible when both parties have full access to accurate, transparent financial information.

Prepare for Your Divorce with the Help of Pence Law Firm

As you begin to plan for life after divorce, make sure you have the support of the team at Pence Law Firm. Call us at 304-345-7250 or get in touch online to schedule a consultation with our team of Charleston high-asset divorce attorneys.

Viewing Divorce as a Growth Experience

No one gets married with a plan to divorce in the back of their mind, but divorce is the reality for nearly half of all American couples. While it’s normal to grieve the end of your marriage and the dreams you had for it, divorce can also be a fresh new beginning. Many people give up parts of themselves to help their marriage survive, and the end of the marriage is a chance to bring those parts back to life.

Learn more about treating divorce as a growth experience, and when you’re ready for help with the legal side of your divorce, call Pence Law Firm at 304-345-7250.

Societal Views on Divorce Have Changed Over Time

While divorce has never been fun, it’s definitely easier now than it used to be. In the past, divorce was viewed as such a grave mistake and dereliction of duty that it essentially ended one’s reputation and future opportunities. Now, since divorce is so common and no one’s forced to stay in a relationship that does not serve them, you won’t even get a surprised look when you tell people you’re divorced. In fact, you’ll likely find new friends who have been in the same boat and know what you’re going through. Not one do you have your already-existing support group, but you can actually use this experience to broaden your social circle.

Divorce as a Vehicle for Self-Discovery

Divorce can be a good way to propel your discovery of yourself. Think about your marriage—what did you give up? It may be hobbies, activities, or interests that your spouse didn’t like, didn’t find appropriate, or simply didn’t prioritize. You may have put your own interests to the side to support your spouse in their endeavors, resulting in a slow loss of self. This is your second chance to figure out what matters to you and how you want to use your life. It doesn’t even have to be hobbies and activities you used to enjoy; you could discover something entirely new to you.

Setting Yourself Up for Emotional Healing and Resilience

As you navigate this path, recognize that healing is not linear. You may feel great one day, only to wake up the next day feeling like you took ten steps back. That is completely normal, and you want to set yourself up with the support you need to get through the tough days. That means being gentle with yourself when you take a step backward or understanding when you need to take a day off to cry and lay on the couch. It may also mean getting the mental health support you need. Divorce is a traumatizing experience, and many people benefit from professional assistance as they work their way through it.

Creating Strong Support Networks

The people in your life likely want to support you during this difficult time. It’s normal to want to work through it on your own; some people even feel ashamed of their divorce and don’t want to let other people in. But turning to the people you trust doesn’t just help you process your divorce more easily—it also strengthens your bond with them and gives you the foundation you need for this next chapter of life. Prioritize your friends and family members and don’t be afraid to call someone when you hit a hurdle in your healing.

Building a Future You Can Look Forward To

Life without a spouse means that you have room to grow and build a life that fits your goals. You don’t have to make any life changes right now; in fact, experts often recommend that you don’t. But you do have time to start brainstorming and thinking about what you want life to look like in five, ten, and twenty years from now. You can also start planning the steps you need to take to make this chapter the best one yet.

Find Out How Pence Law Firm Can Help You

At Pence Law Firm, we are committed to helping people like you work through the challenges of divorce. From the division of assets and spousal support to child custody and child support, we’re here for all of it. Set up your free consultation now by calling us at 304-345-7250 or sending us a message online.

Coping With Lifestyle Adjustments After a High Asset Divorce

Adjusting to life after divorce is difficult under the best circumstances—and when you’re transitioning out of a life where you became accustomed to substantial assets, it’s even more challenging. If you’re preparing for your next step in life but the transition is bumpier than expected, there are things you can do to help yourself through it.

With the right legal team by your side, you can prepare for your next chapter in life and fight for the assets you need to maintain your lifestyle. Call Pence Law Firm at 304-407-7852 to set up a time to meet with our team of divorce attorneys.

Realistic Financial Planning

During the divorce process, it is crucial that you spend some time creating a realistic financial plan. This is easier after you’ve negotiated the division of assets and debts, as you’ll know how much you have to pay each month in debt and how much cash you’ll have on hand. Using your income streams, debt payments, and other required monthly expenses, figure out how much you have left over each month. From there, you can figure out where you have room to add in services and goods that matter the most to you. 

For example, if you have multiple children, a meal service or house cleaning service may be non-negotiable for you. If fitness is your only “you” time, a membership at your boutique fitness studio may be at the top of your list. If you can’t keep everything, figure out what matters most to you.

Assessment of Needs and Wants

When you get used to life at a certain level, your wants can quickly start feeling like needs. If you’re like many people navigating a high-asset divorce, you’re likely in this same boat. As part of your divorce process, consider meeting with a financial planner. Bring all of the information you can, including retirement accounts, banking statements, sources of income, debts, and any agreed-upon alimony or child support. 

A good financial planner can give you a breakdown of your finances and be blunt about what you can and cannot afford. Remember, you can always add luxuries back into your life if you find that you have extra money. But trying to cut back once you’re already behind is stressful and mentally draining.

Leaning Into Your Social Circle

It’s always recommended that you rely on your social circle during divorce. It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever go through in life, and having good friends and family members by your side can ease the transition. It’s even more important when you are also losing your lifestyle. Spending time with loved ones can help you adjust to your new normal and help you see the beauty in the life you have now. Additionally, they may be able to help you tap into resources that are available to you. 

For example, if you’ve lost access to an exclusive fitness studio you attended when you had more money, your friends may help you find another supportive group at their favorite gym. If you had to give up an expensive hobby that brought your life meaning and joy, your friends may help you find something you love just as much.

Mental Health Support

Counseling is an excellent resource for anyone going through divorce, and it is particularly helpful if you’re having a rough time acclimating. People often avoid this, as they feel like getting help for a loss of assets or income takes away services from those in greater need. But remember that therapists are there to help people through every challenge they face in life. 

A sudden change in lifestyle can be painful to work through, so why not turn to someone professionally trained in navigating life’s changes? As an added benefit, those who go through counseling during or after divorce often report better outcomes with post-divorce communication and co-parenting.

This highlights the importance of working with experienced legal counsel while navigating divorce. Even if you were not the high earner in your marriage, that doesn’t mean you should be left with nothing. Hiring a Charleston divorce attorney could help you get the assets and income streams you need to maintain your current lifestyle.

Preparing for Divorce? Call Pence Law Firm Today

The sooner you connect with an attorney, the better—divorce is complicated, especially when there are sizable assets involved. The team at Pence Law Firm is here to help. Schedule your consultation now by calling us at 304-407-7852 or filling out our online contact form.

Divorce and Its Impact on Shared Real Estate Investments

While divorce is never easy, additional assets and income streams can further complicate this already stressful time. If you and your spouse have shared real estate investments, be prepared for a long and drawn-out division of assets. Real estate is incredibly valuable, and figuring out how to divide it fairly takes time, patience, and often compromise.

Knowing what to expect is key as you approach your Charleston divorce. With the team at Pence Law Firm by your side, you can feel confident throughout this process. Call us at 304-407-7852 to discuss your next steps.

How Real Estate is Divided in Divorce

Like most states, West Virginia is an equitable distribution state. This means that assets should be divided in a way that is fair, not necessarily a way that is equal. A number of factors are taken into consideration, including each party’s contributions to the marriage, who will be the children’s primary caretakers, the length of the marriage, and each spouse’s financial stability. 

For example, if Spouse A earns $300,000 per year but Spouse B will have their shared children 90% of the time after the divorce, the court is unlikely to accept any agreement that leaves Spouse B without the assets or income they need to meet those children’s needs. Even if Spouse A contributed the most financially, the court will also consider Spouse B’s non-financial contributions.

While the court uses the concept of equitable distribution, these decisions aren’t often left up to the court. It’s more common for couples to negotiate and come to a division agreement with the help of their attorneys.

Weighing Obligations and Benefits

As you consider how you want to handle your shared real estate, think about both the benefits and the drawbacks that come with owning real estate. Real estate is a stable investment that generally increases in value year after year, and it can also be a strong source of income if you live in an area with lots of renters. However, it also requires you to either be a landlord or pay for a property management service, keep the property in a habitable condition, and handle the taxes that come with being a landlord. For some, the benefits of owning property outweigh everything else. For others, having the other party buy them out is the more appealing option.

Using Liquid Assets for a Fair Division of Assets

In high-asset divorces, it’s common to use liquid assets to balance out the division of assets during divorce. Imagine that you no longer want to own real estate investments and you want to strike out on your own as a business owner. Your spouse may agree to buy you out by granting you a larger share of the marital retirement funds or cash. This streamlines the process and can make it easier for both parties to get what they want out of the divorce.

Selling Shared Real Estate

What happens when neither party wants to keep the real estate? Owning real estate investments is a significant responsibility and it does sometimes happen that neither spouse wants to take that on alone. In this scenario, the parties sell the real estate and split the proceeds equitably. 

This can be a bit more time-consuming than the other solutions, as it involves staging the home, contracting with a real estate agent, and cooperating throughout the selling process for each piece of property. But once you make it through that, both parties get what they are owed and can walk away with those financial ties severed. Many divorcing couples find that selling shared real estate gives them a sense of relief and the freedom to move on with their new life.

Whether you know how you want to handle your shared real estate or you’re still not sure what the best option is, it’s good to begin planning for this step early, as it may be one of the most complex parts of your divorce.

Prepare for Your Divorce with Pence Law Firm

The Charleston divorce attorneys at Pence Law Firm are here to help you work through the division of assets, child support, child custody agreements, and the various other major decisions you must make during divorce. Let’s sit down and talk about what matters most to you. Just contact us online or call us at 304-407-7852.

Navigating the Complexities of Divorce and Pensions

The division of assets can be a challenging part of your West Virginia divorce, particularly if you and your spouse have pensions or retirement accounts. These are often among the most valuable assets a couple has to divide, so they can be the subject of bitter disputes. If you or your spouse have a pension to split, learn what to expect and what your options are.

Having the right legal counsel during your divorce can make a significant difference in the outcome. Call Pence Law Firm at 304-407-7852 to set up a consultation with our team right away.

The Division of Marital Assets in West Virginia

As is the case with most states, West Virginia is an equitable distribution state. Rather than assuming that all property acquired during a marriage will be split down the middle during a divorce, the principle of equitable distribution aims to split up property in a way that is fair to both parties. A number of factors are considered in these decisions, such as both parties’ earning ability, separate assets they may own, and their contributions to the marriage. Since West Virginia is an equitable distribution state, your pension could be split up in any number of ways, depending on what you agree upon.

Issues to Consider with Pensions

Compared to other types of assets, pensions can be fairly complicated. It’s not as easy as splitting it down the middle and giving part to each spouse. The value of a pension may fluctuate, and pensions also have different structures. For example, a defined benefit plan gives the recipient a set monthly amount after their retirement. However, defined contribution plans may fluctuate in value, depending on the investments chosen. These can be much harder to divide. Finally, you have to consider government pensions, which are generally bound by strict laws and regulations that further complicate this process.

There are several ways you may choose to divide a pension during a divorce—we’ll explore some of those options in greater detail.

Splitting Up the Pension

Pension sharing is a popular option for those who want a clean break after a divorce. With a QDRO—or qualified domestic relations order—the person receiving part of the pension must then transfer their share into their own retirement account. If they do not roll the funds into another retirement account, they may be hit with a heavy financial penalty. 

The amount that is up for division depends on how long the pension has been accumulating and the length of the marriage. If the partner who earned the pension started there before getting married, at least part of the pension will not be subject to division. If they were married for the entirety of their career, the entire pension may be subject to division.

Offsetting Pension Shares

It’s common for the person who earned the pension to want to keep it in its entirety. Pensions can be incredibly valuable, as they often grow in value the longer you remain with a workplace. If the person who owns the pension does not want to split it, they may choose to compensate the other party by offsetting their share of the pension. For example, if they agree on the other party receiving $100,000 of the pension, the person who owned the pension may instead give up $100,000 of their share of the marital home to account for that loss. This way, they do not actually have to break up the pension and diminish its value.

Regardless of how you decide to split up a pension, securing a fair valuation is crucial. While some types of pensions are easy to value, others change with time and with changes in the stock market. Both parties benefit from a fair valuation from a qualified professional.

Get the Legal Support You Deserve with Pence Law Firm

Divorce is never easy, but the right legal team can streamline the process and help you move forward. At Pence Law Firm, we help divorcing individuals all over the Charleston area prepare for their next steps in life. To find out how we can help you, call us at 304-407-7852 or send us a message online.

Minimizing Reputation Damage During High-Profile Divorces

Navigating a divorce is challenging for anyone, but when you’re a public figure who attracts the attention of the community and the media, there’s another layer of difficulty. When everyone is watching your every move, trying to get through a divorce with your privacy and dignity intact can seem like an impossible challenge. It’s crucial to work with an attorney with experience in high-asset, public divorces. We can put your privacy first and work towards resolutions that allow you to move forward with ease.

It’s time to learn more about your options as you move forward with divorce. Call Pence Law Firm at 304-407-7852 to set up a consultation with our team right away.

Prioritize Maintaining Privacy for You and Loved Ones

For many high-profile individuals going through a Charleston divorce, privacy is of the utmost importance. Having the dirty details of your divorce aired in the media is perhaps the easiest way to tank your reputation and ensure that it’ll come up every time someone Googles you. Name for the rest of your life. Even if you and your spouse are ending on especially contentious terms, this is hopefully one area where you can come to an understanding—especially if you have children who could be harmed by eventually seeing the details of their parent’s divorce. Even if your children are young now, the Internet is forever. It’s worth it to put privacy first.

As you work with your attorney, consider utilizing confidentiality agreements that bind everyone who works with you during this process. While you are already protected by attorney-client privilege when it comes to your lawyer, any PR specialists or financial professionals you bring in may not have the same professional standards in their field.

You should also limit your public statements. In most cases, saying nothing is better than saying something that you haven’t carefully planned out and scripted. This is one area where you want to choose every single move carefully.

Figure Out Your Approach to the Media

The media will take any scrap of information it gets and run with it. Engaging with the media will almost always come back to bite you, so you should always be a few steps ahead of them. Communicate with media selectively and on your own terms. Working with a spokesperson or media liaison is one way to limit the amount of speaking you personally have to do, which lowers the risk of unintentionally saying something the media can spin against you.

In many cases, making a brief statement to the media and setting clear boundaries can limit the chatter around your divorce. A good statement addresses the divorce, gives no exciting details, and outlines your wish for privacy for your family during this time.

If unfortunate details of the divorce have already reached the media, this may be a good time to consult a PR specialist about limiting the damage to your reputation and putting your best face forward.

Work Through Issues in Mediation to Avoid Public Court Battles

Settling the key decisions of your divorce in mediation is one of the best ways to limit the information available to the public. When you let the judge make important decisions in your divorce, those court records become public records—and it won’t be long until the media starts picking it apart for details they can use to shape public opinion of you. 

Agreements reached in mediation are private and sealed, helping both parties to protect their and their loved ones’ privacy. Additionally, navigating complex issues in mediation allows you and your spouse to maintain control over the decision-making process. This is especially important when there are sizable assets being divided. Many divorcing couples find that discussing these issues during mediation paves the way for a strong co-parenting relationship and prevents the divorce from becoming too adversarial.

Prepare for Your Divorce with the Team at Pence Law Firm

If you’re concerned about preserving your reputation throughout the divorce process, the team at Pence Law Firm is here to help you. Call us at 304-407-7852 or fill out our online contact form to find out how we can support you as you prepare for the next chapter in life.