Imagine that after more than 20 years of marriage, you and your husband have decided to divorce. Now that your children are grown and living in homes of their own, you will not have to worry about a custody battle. However, during the course of your marriage, you and your husband acquired quite extensive assets. From investment real estate to a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds in addition to your retirement accounts, dividing your marital property may be a complex endeavor.
Part of preparing for a divorce is taking steps to protect your interests. If you do not have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place, it will be up to you and your husband to agree on a fair divorce settlement. However, if you are unable to come to an agreement, then a Pennsylvania divorce court will divide the marital property for you. An experienced Pennsylvania attorney can help you through the divorce process. Read further for more information on marital property laws in Pennsylvania.
Marital property vs. separate property
In general, separate property is any property that you own independently from your husband. This includes property that you owned prior to your marriage either through purchase, as a gift or as an inheritance. If, after your marriage, you purchased property with money that you earned before you were married, that property is also separate in the eyes of the court. Separate property is typically not subject to the division laws that affect marital property.
Marital property includes any items that you acquired after you said your wedding vows. This includes income you earned and any property you purchased with money the two of you earned during the course of your marriage.
While some states still practice the principles of community property, Pennsylvania follows the principles of equitable distribution. This means that if you leave it to the court to divide your marital property, it will do so in a way that it believes is equitable and fair. This does not necessarily mean that you and your husband will each receive 50 percent of your total marital assets.
When the court examines a divorce case that requires property division, it will consider many factors in order to make its decision. For example, the court will look at each of your income earning capabilities, the length of your marriage, and even your respective ages and mental and physical health. In addition, the court will also consider future retirement benefits, the impact of the property division on your income tax liabilities, and anything else it deems pertinent to the division.
If you are considering divorce and have high-value assets, it is important to have a full understanding of how Pennsylvania's marital property laws may impact your future.