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What Property is Divided in a Divorce?

Posted By Cairns Law Offices || 31-May-2016

If you are headed for a divorce, you are probably curious about your rights to property under Pennsylvania's divorce laws, and reasonably so. What are you entitled to? Do you have to split up your marital assets 50/50? Here is what you need to know about property division in a Pennsylvania divorce.

In the United States, there are two methods of dividing marital property: equitable division and community property. Pennsylvania is an equitable division state, which means a married couple's assets are divided in a fair and "equitable" manner, which does not necessarily mean "equal."

Marital vs. Separate Property

In a Pennsylvania divorce, only a couple's marital property is divided; separate property remains separate. With that in mind, the first order of business is to determine which property is marital and which property belongs to the spouses individually.

What is the difference between marital and separate property?

Generally, marital property is all property acquired during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on the account or who the property is titled to.

In contrast, separate property is all property acquired before the marriage, or by gift or inheritance. Separate property also includes property acquired after the date of separation. The most common types of marital property divided in a Pennsylvania divorce, include:

  • Automobiles
  • Collectables
  • Jewelry
  • Marital home
  • Cash in bank accounts
  • Investments
  • Retirement accounts

If you are getting a divorce, you and your spouse do not have to rely on the courts to divide your marital property. If you are seeking a no-fault divorce, it's easier and more cost-effective to work out a property division agreement with your spouse and your respective divorce attorneys.

When the Courts Decide for You

If you and your spouse are not able to decide on property and debt division, the judge will have to decide for you. In that situation, the court would consider a number of factors when deciding how to divide your marital property in an equitable fashion.

Such factors, include but are not limited to: 1) the length of your marriage, 2) the age and health of both spouses, 3) contributions made by one spouse as a homemaker, 4) each spouse's income and assets, 5) each spouse's debts, and 5) the standard of living established during the marriage.

Note: If you're concerned that your spouse will cut off your access to marital funds after you separate, you can ask the court to allow for a partial distribution. However, you will not be able to sell or finance your home while you're waiting for your divorce to be finalized.

For further information about property division in a Pennsylvania divorce, contact Cairns Law Offices!