When you go through a divorce, you’ll have to go through the process of determining how your property will be divided with your spouse. Each state has different rules regarding what property is divided in divorce and how the property is split.
The biggest factor that determines how your property is divided is whether your state follows community property or equitable distribution rules. In a community property state, marital property is typically split 50/50. A court will add up the total value of your marital estate and will grant each spouse an equal percentage.
By contrast, Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state with regard to property division in divorce. Equitable distribution is the equitable, or fair, division of all marital property between the parties by the court in such percentages and in such manner as the court deems just. This means that in PA, a judge will look at all of the marital property and will decide on what the judge feels is a fair distribution.
Equitable distribution doesn’t necessarily mean that the property is evenly divided. Relevant factors considered by a court in PA include, among other things, the earning capacity of each spouse, who earned the property, the length of the marriage, and the standard of living of the parties established during the marriage. It is very important to have quality legal representation by an experienced PA divorce lawyer when negotiating your property division for a Pennsylvania divorce.
Marital Property in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, not all property is subject to division at divorce. Rather, only a couple’s “marital property” is split. Marital property generally includes:
- All property acquired by either party during the marriage to the date of separation;
- The increase in value, until the date of final separation, of non-marital property acquired by gift, bequest, devise or descent; and
- The increase in value of property owned prior to marriage or property acquired in exchange for property owned prior to marriage, until the date of final separation.
It is important to note that marital property in PA also may include retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, and pension plans held by either spouse.
Many issues are considered when determining equitable division of property in Pennsylvania. Equitable distribution of marital property can be complicated, so it is always advisable to consult an experienced PA divorce attorney to ensure that your property rights remain fully protected.
Marital Settlement Agreements
A married couple can either reach an agreement between themselves over what property each will receive or a Pennsylvania court may step in and make the decision for them. Even if you are trying to reach an informal agreement with your spouse, it’s probably a good idea to have an experienced PA divorce lawyer on your side to make sure that you get a fair share and that your legal rights remain protected. An experienced PA divorce lawyer can help you determine what is marital property and can help facilitate an equitable distribution.
Contact The Martin Law Firm at 215-646-3980 if you wish to hire an experienced PA divorce attorney and to learn more about property rights in a Pennsylvania divorce action.