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Understanding marital property laws in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law is a bit different than some other states when it comes to property division during a divorce. This state doesn't recognize community property; however, there is the concept of marital property that comes into the picture.

Marital property is anything that was acquired or earned after the marriage. In a divorce, this property won't usually be divided in an even 50-50 split. Instead, marital property in Pennsylvania is divided using equitable distribution, which is what is considered just and fair, not what is considered even.

Property that was acquired and money earned prior to the marriage is usually considered separate property, which means the person who earned or acquired it gets to keep it. Assets that were given to a spouse through gift, bequest or devise usually remain separate property if the couple divorces.

When it comes to a business, the way that is handled depends on how the business makes money. If the value of the business is earned from the idea of the business that was conceived before the marriage, it will likely be considered separate property. If the value of the business comes from actual work done by the spouse during the marriage, the income will probably be considered marital property.

If you are going through a divorce, there are two ways that property can be divided. The first way is for you and your ex to decide who gets what. If you can't or won't do that, the second way will apply. In that case, the court will decide who gets what.

If the court has to decide who gets what, it considers a host of factors to determine how to split property. This includes the duration of your marriage, the liabilities and income of you and your ex, you and your ex's ability to provide for yourselves and anything else the court feels is appropriate.

You have to ensure that you know your rights and the laws of the state regarding property division so that you can plan your case.

Source: FindLaw, "Pennsylvania Marital Property Laws," accessed Sep. 15, 2016

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