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How is property divided in a Pennsylvania divorce?

The property division process in Pennsylvania largely boils down to what the courts determine is marital property and what is separate property. All property acquired by a husband and wife during the course of their marriage will be seen as marital property and subject to division. This property includes earned money and acquired property

As for separate property, this includes anything that is owned by one spouse alone. Generally, separate property includes property that was purchased or acquired prior to the marriage or -- if after the marriage -- property received as a devise, bequest or gift. Separate property could also include property purchased with money earned before the marriage. As for businesses, it could go either way. If courts decide that the business ideas were devised prior to the marriage, then business profits and the business itself will likely remain separate property. However, if the profitability of the business resulted from the efforts of both spouses, then it is likely that it will be considered marital property.

When it comes to dividing marital property, Pennsylvania strives to follow the standard of equitable distribution. By equitable, this means that the courts will strive to divide a couple's assets in the fashion that is fairest, rather than an exactly 50/50 split. In order to determine a fair division, courts will look at a variety of factors like the length of marriage, health and ages of both spouses, income and debts of both spouses, tax consequences of property division, the expected pension and retirement benefits of both spouses and much, much more.

Knowing the rules of property division certainly does not make the process of parting with one's assets any easier emotionally. However, it can make the process less stressful, less expensive and fairer. For this reason, Pennsylvania spouses may want to consider discussing their legal rights and options with an experienced family law attorney so they can gain the clearest understanding possible of their rights with respect to their own property division proceedings.

Source: FindLaw, "Pennsylvania Marital Property Laws," accessed April 29, 2016

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