Divorce & Property Division 101
During a divorce, one of the most difficult aspects is dividing assets acquired during the marriage. While this can be an emotionally exhausting process, a divorcing couple should be aware of their rights when determining how to divide their assets.
Does Pennsylvania Split Marital Assets Equally?
Pennsylvania doesn’t necessarily split marital assets 50/50. Instead, it is an equitable distribution state. This means marital assets are divided between the couple based on what is deemed fair or equitable in the divorce.
Marital assets are usually defined as acquisitions obtained during the marriage. This can include:
- Real estate like a primary residence and vacation homes
- Bank accounts
- Business assets
- Stocks, retirement accounts, and pensions
- Household items
Keep in mind that equitable distribution only applies to marital assets, so non-marital property doesn’t fall into this category. This can include:
- Assets acquired before marriage
- Assets acquired by gift or inheritance before or during the marriage (except for gifts given to each other during the marriage)
- Assets acquired after the date of separation
- Defined separate property based on a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement
There are some circumstances where the separate property can become marital property. A common example is financial assets like a retirement fund. Before marriage, a spouse may have a retirement fund worth $10,000. That is considered non-marital property since it was acquired before marriage. But by the time of divorce, it has grown to $100,000. Since the growth occurred during the marriage, the $90,000 earned is considered a marital asset.
What Factors Are Considered When Distributing Marital Property?
Many factors are considered before marital property and assets are distributed between the divorcing couple. Some of these factors include:
- Length of marriage
- Previous marriages
- Age and health of both parties
- Couple’s standard of living during their marriage
- Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements
- Each party’s overall economic situation
- Financial contributions of each party toward marital assets
- Whether a spouse delayed education or a career to pursue caregiving responsibilities for the couple’s children
- Each party’s debts and liabilities
- The need for the party with physical custody of the children to live or own the marital residence
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of the factors that contribute to a fair and equitable distribution of marital assets, it can help inform you of what may happen in a divorce. Ideally, divorcing spouses can work with their respective divorce attorneys to fairly divide marital property. Otherwise, a decision may be made by a judge.
What Is the Equitable Division Process?
Experienced divorce lawyers can walk you through how equitable division works and how state laws can impact this process.
The first step is to create an inventory of all assets and debts acquired during the marriage. It should also include how it was acquired, who has the title, and their values at the time of acquisition and at present. Your attorney may be able to help you create this list.
Then negotiations can begin with the other spouse and how to equitably divide the marital assets. Settling the division of property without needing a judge’s input is usually best for both parties. However, if no agreement is reached, then the equitable division process will go through the court system.
Need Reputable Property Division Lawyers in Lebanon, PA?
It’s not always necessary to go to court to earn your fair share of marital assets. Our experienced divorce attorneys will fight for your interests and strive to reach an out-of-court settlement. If an agreement can’t be reached, our team is also ready to defend you during litigation.
At Henry & Beaver, our attorneys have years of experience in divorce and family law. You can schedule a consultation today at (717) 274-3644 or contact us online.