Over the course of a marriage, it is common for Pennsylvania couples to co-mingle their assets. This includes not only the assets they enter into their marriage with, but also the assets they attain during their marriage. Should they decide to divorce, however, these assets or property will have to be divided and distributed between them.
Separate versus marital property
With few exceptions, property is characterized in one of two ways with regards to Pennsylvania divorces. In general, separate property is any property that belongs to one spouse alone. This may include property that was attained before a couple was married, such as vehicles or real estate that were fully paid off. Depending on the circumstances, gifts and inheritances that were received during the course of a marriage may also be presumed separate property if those assets are kept separate. Additionally, separate property may include any assets that are protected through a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.
Marital property, on the other hand, is those assets that are acquired during the course of a marriage. A couple’s marital home, vehicles they purchase while married, art, furniture and other properties may all fit into this category. Even if a title is placed in only one spouse’s name, assets will generally be deemed marital property for the purposes of a divorce, according to the Philadelphia Courts. Some assets, such as retirement accounts may be established prior to a marriage. If, however, people contribute to them during the course of a marriage, the portion contributed during the course of the marriage, in addition to the increase in value thereon during the course of the marriage will also be considered marital property. It should be noted, that the increase in value of separate property is considered marital property for the purpose of distribution in a divorce.
Generally, when a couple divorces, each spouse retains their separate property. Their marital property, on the other hand, is subject to division by the court. Under Title 23 of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, marital property is divided in accordance with the rules of equitable division.
Under equitable division, assets must be split based on what is fair and equitable after an assessment of all of the factors set forth in Title 23. As such, each spouse may not receive equal shares. In making the decision on how to divide the assets, the courts will consider factors including the following:
- The marriage’s duration
- Whether either spouse was married previously
- The standard of living that was established for the couple during their marriage
- Each spouse’s sources of income
- The future earning potential for each spouse
- Whether one spouse made any contribution to the training, education or increased earning potential of the other spouse
Additionally, the age, health, employability, vocational skills, liabilities and needs of each spouse may be factored into the court’s deliberations. Under most circumstances, any instances of marital misconduct are not considered relevant for the purpose of dividing marital property.
Seeking legal counsel and representation
For many divorcing couples in Pennsylvania, the division of property may be one of the most contested aspects of the settlement process. Often, spouses disagree about who is entitled to which assets. Therefore, it may benefit those considering a divorce to work with an attorney. A lawyer may help them to understand the asset division process, as well as what property they may be entitled to receive .
Keywords: divorce, property, division