Whether it’s the stock market crash, a natural disaster, or a pandemic like the current coronavirus health crisis, divorcing your spouse is a stressful time, but, you do not have to feed your husband (or wife) to tigers to be free of your spouse. Netflix’s latest documentary, Tiger King, has gained a lot of buzz in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. If you have not watched Tiger King, you have probably heard about it from your friends, family, or co-workers, or seen the litany of memes that have been circulating about the docuseries following its release on March 20, 2020. The series comprises seven episodes, documenting the life of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic. The story spans a few years of Joe’s life as he ran the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, with over 200 big cats and other exotic animals, and his team of “misfit” staff members prior to his arrest for a murder-for-hire. As part of the show, you are introduced to a number of key characters in Joe’s life, including his two husbands, Travis Maldonado and John Finlay, and Joe’s arch-nemesis, Carol Baskin, the owner of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida. While Baskin is portrayed as a flower crown-wearing, big cat activist, we learn of a dark past. Baskin opened up her sanctuary in the 90s alongside her then-husband Don Lewis. Lewis and Baskin married when Baskin was only nineteen years old. The big twist in Carol’s seemingly perfect love story comes as we find out that Lewis vanished in 1997 after telling people he was planning to divorce Baskin. Joe Exotic rumors that Carol killed her husband in an attempt to avoid a second divorce, and subsequently fed him to her tigers.
So, is the risk of spending the rest of your life in prison for feeding your spouse to the tigers really better than divorcing your spouse? The answer is definitely no! Only a crazy person would see death and the potential for lifetime incarceration or the death penalty as a better option than divorce. Would Big Cat Rescue really be worth a lethal injection if Joe Exotic’s allegations are true?
Equitable Distribution vs. Probate or Intestacy
In a Pennsylvania divorce case, part of the process is dividing your marital assets and debts with your spouse. The process of division of marital property and marital debt in Pennsylvania is called equitable distribution. It’s probably safe to say that a starting point for equitable distribution is a 50/50 division of the marital assets and debts and that the Family Courts use a list of factors to determine if one spouse should receive a skewed distribution in their favor. With the courts dividing your marital assets and debts in equitable distribution, both spouses leave the marriage with a portion of the assets or debts that they accumulated in the marriage.
On the other hand, when a spouse dies the surviving spouse is entitled to receive that share of the marital property awarded to them in their spouse’s Last Will and Testament or under the laws of inheritance when a spouse dies without a Will and often also retains any benefits under life insurance or retirement plans. A surviving spouse may inherit the entire estate of their deceased spouse as well as being the sole beneficiary of contracts for life insurance and retirement. However, the Executor or Administrator of the deceased spouse’s estate must also gather together information about any estate debts and pay those lawful debts from any estate assets.
Spousal Support vs. Settling an Estate
In Pennsylvania, another aspect of a separation or divorce from your spouse may be a claim for some form of spousal support. Pennsylvania spousal support claims can fall into three different categories – spousal support, alimony pendente lite or alimony. Spousal support in Pennsylvania is money paid to a lower income spouse after a separation but before the filing of a divorce complaint. Alimony pendente lite is money paid to a lower income spouse after the filing of a divorce complaint and until a divorce decree has been entered and all assets and debts divided by agreement or court order. Alimony is paid after a divorce decree is entered and the equitable distribution process has been finalized by agreement or court order. Given that alimony could be awarded by a Pennsylvania Family Court Judge, a higher income spouse could potentially be responsible for assisting in the support of their former spouse even after a divorce action is finalized.
In a Pennsylvania estate matter, the estate of a deceased person may be liable for paying some or all of the debts of the deceased. But, Pennsylvania law clearly provides that all claims for spousal support, alimony pendente lite and alimony are terminated upon the death of a payor spouse. This is the reason why many spouses who are entitled to alimony payments will require a provision in their divorce settlement papers requiring the higher income spouse to have life insurance to guarantee the remaining amount due under any alimony provisions. So, I guess in some ways, alimony can be seen as being paid from beyond the grave if a life insurance provision is included.
Who Needs a Tiger When You can have a Shark?
Attorney Lisa Marie Vari has been assisting clients for over 25 years with some of the toughest Pennsylvania Family Court issues out there and has a proven track record of success. Attorney Vari has been described as tenacious, a fighter and yes, even a shark. So who needs a tiger when you can have a shark representing you in your Family Court case?
Attorney Vari and our team Lisa Marie Vari & Associates, P.C. have the experience and can provide you with the tools and resources to get you through this chapter of your life. We work with clients from all walks of life, gay, straight, black, white, mixed, and we can walk you through the steps of filing for divorce and dividing marital assets.
Our PA family law office has the ability to inform you of your options and the best steps forward with leaving the comfort of your home. To schedule a consultation with our firm, simply call our office at 1-844-VARI-LAW (1-844-827-4529) or complete our brief contact form to schedule your initial consultation today.