In the United States, there are two methods of dividing marital property in a divorce: community property and equitable distribution. Pennsylvania, like most states, follows the equitable distribution model.
Divorcing spouses know that divorce affects their assets, but they don’t always know exactly how or to what extent. Cash in bank accounts, real estate, automobiles, life insurance, 401ks and IRAs, stocks and bonds, businesses – divorce touches on all of these things, but to what extent? Do spouses have to split the marital assets equally?
Marital vs. Separate Property
In a Pennsylvania divorce, marital assets are divided in an equitable and fair manner depending on the facts of the case. Unlike community property states, such as California and Nevada, that doesn’t necessarily mean equally or 50/50.
If a couple cannot reach a property settlement agreement, the judge will have to decide for them. In these situations, the first matter of business is to determine what is separate property and what is marital.
“Marital property” refers to just about all assets acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage, with the exception of gifts to one spouse and an inheritance. Marital assets include investments, a house, automobiles, bank accounts, and so on, regardless of whose name is on the account or mortgage.
Separate property is NOT subject to division in a Pennsylvania divorce and it includes assets acquired before the marriage, but as mentioned above, it also includes gifts and inheritances acquired before or during the marriage.
What factors determine fairness in asset division?
- Length of the marriage,
- Age and health of each spouse,
- Any previous marriages by either spouse,
- Each spouse’s earning capacity,
- The standard of living established during the marriage,
- One spouse’s contributions to the other spouse’s education or increased earning capacity,
- Each spouse’s assets, income and debts,
- Contributions as a homemaker,
- Each spouse’s economic circumstances, and
- Whether a spouse will be a custodial parent of the couple’s children.
Note:Marital misconduct, namely adultery, is not considered when a judge is determining fairness in the division of marital assets.
The best way to control how assets are divided in your divorce is to seek a no-fault divorce. To learn about our $249 no-fault divorces, contact our Philadelphia divorce firm today.