In preparing for a divorce, one of the most significant financial – and often emotional – issues you will need to address is what happens to the marital property, and specifically which spouse will walk away with what property. Where possible, divorcing spouses should work with their attorneys to negotiate their own division of marital property in order to find a mutually beneficial division, but they should do in light of the Pennsylvania laws which dictate how a judge will divide marital property. By knowing how a judge will divide your marital property should you be unable to reach an agreement, you can negotiate a fair division or at least know what to expect should the decision be left to the judge.
Understanding Marital Property and Nonmarital Property
In Pennsylvania, there is a distinction between marital property and nonmarital property. Marital property generally includes the property that either spouse earns during the marriage or acquires with funds earned during the marriage. Basically, if a piece of property – whether cash, savings, personal property, vehicles, real estate, or even a family business – owes its value to labor exerted by either party during the marriage, it is marital property subject to division. This is true regardless of who “earned” it or whose name is on the title.
Nonmarital property then refers to any property that is not marital property and would include the following:
- Property acquired before the marriage
- Property acquired between the date the spouses decide to separate and divorce
- Property given by gift to either spouse
How Equitable Distribution Works in a PA Divorce
Nonmarital property goes with whatever spouse already owned the property after the divorce, while marital property will be subject to equitable distribution between the spouses. Unlike in some other states, equitable distribution in Pennsylvania does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split between the spouses, but rather that the court will distribute the property between the spouses as it deems fair.
In making this equitable distribution, courts in Pennsylvania do not consider so-called marital misconduct issues such as adultery, but courts will rely on a number of factors related to the contributions made by each spouse during the marriage and their financial circumstances. Such factors include:
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The age, health, employability, and job skills of each spouse
- The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time of division
- The sources of income available to each spouse, including wages, insurance, and retirement benefits
- The contribution of each spouse to the education or increased earning power of the other spouse
- The contributions of each spouse to the marriage, which can include earnings and homemaking contributions
Working With an Attorney On PA Equitable Distribution
The decisions a judge might make in Pennsylvania regarding property distribution and the factors that go into that decision can be quite complex, and any spouse entering into this process is encouraged to work with an attorney who can guide him or her on the specific issues relating to all types of marital property, including:
- Savings and investments
- Retirement benefits
- Real estate (including the family home)
- Business holdings
Keep in mind that alimony can also be awarded in a divorce, as well as child support, which are also issues of enormous import that a family law attorney can guide you through to achieve a positive outcome.
Get Help With Your PA Divorce Matter Today
At The Martin Law Firm, P.C., our family law team works with men and women across Southeastern Pennsylvania in divorce matters, and we are committed to serving your needs in a compassionate and efficient manner. Call us today for a no-hassle consultation regarding any questions you have about divorce in Pennsylvania.