Splitting property is one of the most challenging and confusing parts of a divorce proceeding. Even if you can clearly identify items that you’ve acquired, it doesn’t necessarily mean the item or the item’s value is yours to keep upon divorce. To understand what property can be divided, the first item to note is that Pennsylvania is an “equitable division” state. This means that courts will divide property fairly, but not necessarily equally, between the parties.
Assessing the property that will be split
Before knowing what property can divided fairly, parties must inventory their assets and note whether they were acquired before or after the date of marriage. Assets of greater concern include houses, vehicles, retirement accounts, bank accounts and other high dollar items like artwork collections and furniture. Courts will even consider pets, often a valued and priceless member of a family, in property allocation.
Courts can consider multiple factors when dividing properly fairly including marriage length, both parties’ income or ability to earn income, and each party’s contribution to the marriage. An experienced attorney can develop a strong case for property distribution when knowing what and how important factors are to a specific situation. Because fair property distribution is arguable, an attorney can explain why certain factors over others may influence a judge’s decision.
Possible exceptions to marital property
Although property acquired during a marriage is generally subject to division, there are notable exceptions. Property acquired before a marriage is not generally divisible during divorce. For example, contributions to a retirement account prior to marriage may remain with the spouse who made the contribution. Gifts and inheritance to one party, property excluded by a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, and property acquired between separation and final divorce are not divisible.
Divorce can be a trying process, particularly when going through court hearings, but parties may be able to find a resolution more quickly and with less emotional stress outside the courtroom. Family law disputes, including divorce and the property division process, can often be settled through negotiation and mediation. These forms of dispute resolution allow parties instead of a judge decide outcomes together.