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How is marital property divided in Pennsylvania?

In the state of Pennsylvania, Marital Property is considered to be any kind of property that a couple acquires during their marriage. This property will be subjected to division whenever a couple chooses to divorce. While certain states recognize the concept of Community Property (where all property belonging to both spouses is considered to be owned jointly) Pennsylvania is not one of them. As such, in a Pennsylvania divorce, property owned by both spouses must be categorized according to different guidelines before the ownership of the Marital Property can be appropriately divided.

One property categorization is known as Separate Property. Separate Property is property that just one spouse owns. This applies to items and assets that were acquired by one of the spouses prior to marriage. It also applies to gifts and bequests. Further, property that was bought by a spouse with assets earned before the marriage will also be considered as Separate Property. During the property division process, one or the other spouse may try to assert arguments in court in order to get a certain piece of property or asset categorized as his or her own Separate Property so that he or she does not have to lose half of it in the divorce.

As described above, Marital Property is any money or property acquired during the marriage -- i.e., after the legal date of the union. Marital Property will be subjected to division during a Pennsylvania divorce; however, the nature of that division and which items go to who can all be debated in divorce court. Pennsylvania is considered to be an equitable distribution state, which means that courts will strive to divide the property as equally as possible.

Although the division of marital property process seems fairly cut and dry on the surface, there are many different angles that property can be viewed from. As such, the classification of property, and the manner in which marital property is equally divided can all be argued in court. For example, one investment account that holds the same market value of investments as another investment account might actually be worth less during the property division process if the account would be subjected to a higher tax liability upon liquidation.

Source: FindLaw, "Pennsylvania Marital Property Laws" Sep. 11, 2014

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