Understanding property distribution in a Pennsylvania divorce

Pennsylvania follows an equitable distribution of property model when dividing property in a divorce case.

When couples file for marriage dissolution or legal separation in Pennsylvania, there are many details that must be arranged. One of the most critical and emotional decisions that must be made is who is entitled what in the divorce settlement. While some couples are able to separate their property through mediation and without the help of the court system, other couples must litigate the terms of their decree through court.

Equitable distribution of property

Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution of property state, meaning that all marital property is divided in a way that is considered fair and just to the unique circumstances of the case. Ultimately, the judge who is appointed to oversee the case is in charge of making the final decision, and may consider several factors when doing so. According to Pennsylvania code, these factors often include the following:

  • The occupation, income and earning potential of each party.
  • How long the marriage lasted and whether either party was previously married.
  • The quality of life that was established during the marriage.
  • The value of the marital property.
  • Whether either party is the custodial parent of any children involved in the divorce.

The court may also take look at whether one party put his or her career and/or education on hold to support the education and/or career of the spouse during the marriage.

Separate vs. marital property

Not all property is able to be divided upon termination of a marriage. Separate property may stay with the original owner once the divorce is finalized. These may include items, money or property that a person owned prior to becoming married. In order to be thought of as separate, however, the property title must remain solely in the original owner's name. Furthermore, the assets must be kept apart from the marital assets. If the title of a property is revised to include the spouse's name or the assets are deposited into a joint bank account, the items may lose the separate status and may then be divided between the spouses.

Separate property may also include an inheritance given to either party before or during the marriage, as well as gifts given to either spouse by a third-party.

Obtaining legal help

Whether you are just entering into the divorce process or you have been dealing with a divorce for some time, you may want to refer to an attorney in Pennsylvania for legal counsel. A lawyer may be helpful in answering your questions and pointing you in the right direction when it comes to ensuring your rights are upheld in the divorce settlement.