In the United States, there are two methods of distributing marital property in a divorce: 1) equitable distribution and 2) community property. Like the majority of the states, Pennsylvania follows the “equitable distribution” model, which aims towards a fair and equitable distribution of marital property, but it’s not necessarily equal or 50/50.
If the couple cannot reach an agreement on how to divide their marital property, the court will step in and decide for them based on what it deems fair. When deciding on how to divide a couple’s property, the court will evaluate a number of factors, such as:
- The age and health of both spouses
- Each spouse’s earning capacity
- Each spouse’s separate property
- The length of the marriage
- Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage
- And so on
Only “marital property” is subject to division in a divorce; separate property belongs to each spouse individually and is not divided in a divorce. Generally, marital property refers to all property acquired during the course of the marriage. Separate property on the other hand, is property acquired before the marriage, but it also includes gifts and inheritances acquired before or during the marriage by one spouse.
Are Retirement Assets Marital Property?
If a retirement assets was acquired during the marriage, then yes, it is considered marital property and is subject to division in a divorce. Even if a retirement account was acquired before the marriage, and monies contributed to the retirement account during the marriage would be considered marital property. However, any money accumulated in the account before the marriage would be classified as separate property.
If the retirement account was established during the marriage (not beforehand), the entire retirement account would be included in the couple’s marital estate. This means the plan would be subject to division until the date of separation. Any funds put into the plan after the date of separation would be considered “separate property,” unless marital funds were put into the account after the couple separated.
Are Retirement Funds Split Equally?
Not necessarily. Since Pennsylvania uses the equitable distribution method, there is no “one size fits all” approach to dividing retirement assets. It depends on a number of factors, such as the length of the marriage, and the couple’s separate assets, etc. At Cairns Law Offices, since we help people achieve cheap, no-fault divorces, our clients reach agreements on dividing their retirement assets without court intervention.