Divorce is a complicated process both emotionally and financially. One of the more heated topics couples face is how they’re going to divide their property.
The standard for property division in Pennsylvania is “equitable distribution”, which means that property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. Some states divide property between the spouses 50/50, but Pennsylvania is not one of them. Each case is handled individually based on the circumstances, so a result will be relative.
With the help of legal counsel, it’s possible for a divorcing couple to come to an agreement out of court, but if there is too much conflict and they can’t agree, a judge will be asked to make the decision on their behalf.
Property in the decision
Anything acquired during the marriage is considered “marital property” and will be a part of a division decision. This includes the obvious assets like the house and cars but also includes investments, bank accounts, retirement accounts and even a valuable collection.
Assets acquired outside of the marriage (prior to the start of the marriage and after the date of legal separation) are excluded from the decision. Gifts and legacies left to one spouse and anything specifically mentioned in a prior written agreement are also excluded.
Factors to be considered
A judge has broad discretion toward making a decision and will consider a number of factors to reach a fair resolution:
- Age, occupation and health of each spouse
- Length of the marriage
- Custodial arrangements for children
- Economic circumstances of each spouse, including the potential for future income
- Any tax repercussions attached to an asset
The court aims to make a decision that’s fair, but the process of dividing property gets complicated, especially if there are significant assets. For the best possible outcome, it’s best to consult with an attorney who can provide advice and help you make informed decisions.