When a Pennsylvania couple files for divorce, their marital property is subject to the rules of equitable distribution. Unlike community property states such as California, this does not mean that the marital property is divided 50/50. Rather, marital property is divided in a manner that the judge believes is "fair."
In a Pennsylvania divorce, property is categorized as either separate property (property that belongs to one of the spouses), or marital property (property that belongs to both spouses). Generally, separate property includes:
- Property that a spouse acquired before the marriage;
- Inheritances and gifts received during the marriage;
- Any property excluded from the marital estate through a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement; and
- Property acquired by a spouse after the separation.
Any assets or income earned during a marriage are presumed to be marital property, and therefore owned by both spouses. This includes a home, vehicles, art, investments, furniture, real estate, and retirement accounts established after the marriage.
Even if the title of the property is in one of the spouse's names, it is still included in the marital estate.
Benefits of a Marital Settlement Agreement
It is usually best for the spouses to negotiate and settle on issues pertaining to property and debt division, spousal support, child support, child custody and visitation, rather than leaving these decisions up to a judge.
If a couple cannot agree on a marital settlement agreement, then a judge will have to decide for them. Since it's impossible to predict how a judge would decide on a particular case, it is in a couple's best interests to reach their own agreement rather than endure a protracted, and expensive court battle.
A divorce agreement should be reached with the assistance of each spouse's respective attorneys. Once the agreement has been reached, the terms of that agreement are memorialized in a "marital settlement agreement" (MSA), which is a written contract that resolves the couple's divorce-related issues.
From there, the provisions of the MSA shall be integrated into the court's final judgment of divorce.
MSAs Allow Couples to Retain Control
One of the scariest aspects of divorce is the idea that you could lose control of what happens to your assets and worse, your family. With an MSA, you and your spouse decide on property and debt division, and all of the alimony and child-related issues – you are not at the mercy of a judge.
If you are searching for a Pennsylvania no fault divorce attorney, we suggest that you contact Cairns Law Offices for support. To make things as easy as possible on our clients, we offer free consultations, installment payment plans, continuing legal advice, and most importantly, low-cost uncontested divorces.
Contact our firm today to find out what we can do for you!