During the course of your marriage, you have more than likely acquired a significant amount of property. Perhaps you have a home in Lancaster filled with furniture, a couple of cars in the driveway, and even individual retirement accounts. According to Pennsylvania law, everything that you and your husband have purchased, or received as a couple, is subject to division when you divorce. But who gets what? How does the court decide which property you get when you divorce?
While some states adhere to community property laws, in which the court recognizes each spouse as owning half of the property, Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state. This means the court will divide your property in a way that it deems fair. Keep in mind that fair does not necessarily mean equal. It is possible that the court might divide your property in a way where one of you gets more than the other. To find out more about Pennsylvania’s marital property laws, read further.
Marital property defined
In general, marital property includes all the money the two of you earned and any property you acquired after you said “I do.” However, there are some exceptions that the court considers to be separate and not subject to division in a divorce.
Typically, separate property includes items that are solely owned by one spouse or the other. For example, items that you purchased or acquired before your marriage are usually not included with the marital property that you must divide. Also, any gifts or inheritances you received during your marriage are also free from division.
If you own a business, its status will depend largely on how it attained its value. For example, if the idea for the business is the source of its value and it began before your marriage, the court might rule that it is separate. However, if the value is directly related to the time, energy and efforts you put into it while married, it may lose its separate status. Furthermore, the loss of separate status can occur with any property that is normally separate if it is too difficult to differentiate it from the marital property.
When it comes time for the court to decide which of you gets what, it will look at several factors to determine an equitable distribution. For instance, the court will examine each of your earning capabilities, the length of the marriage, general health needs, and anything else it considers relevant to the property division.
If you are considering divorce, it is important to understand the marital property laws in your resident state. This might help you decide if it will be more beneficial to allow the court to divide your marital property or to work out a settlement with your soon-to-be ex-husband that is fair to the both of you.