Divorcing in Delaware County: Understanding Property Division in Pennsylvania
For couples who have made the decision to file for divorce, one of the biggest topics of conversation (and possibly contention) will be the distribution of property and other assets. While the choice to split property 50/50 may seem like an obvious decision, the reality is that property division in Pennsylvania and many other states is actually a bit more complicated. If you are a resident of Delaware County and you are considering a divorce, then you can take this article as a primer in understanding property division in Pennsylvania.
Equitable Distribution Overview
Pennsylvania, like the majority of states in the US, uses a property division process known as “equitable distribution.” This means that the court will attempt to allocate marital property in an equitable manner, which can look vastly different than a simple 50/50 split.
When attempting to engage in equitable distribution, the court considers many different factors, such as how long the couple was married, whether either spouse was previously married, each spouse’s role in the ultimate value of assets, each person’s economic well-being at the time of separation, and the added value that each spouse provided to the other’s overall net worth throughout the length of the marriage (e.g. contributions to education or professional training).
Understanding Asset Classification
The Pennsylvania General Assembly defines marital assets as either “marital property”, which is subject to equitable distribution, or “non-marital property”, which isn’t. Typically, any asset or income generated during the length of the marriage is considered marital property, while any property acquired prior to marriage, inheritances, or prenuptial exclusions are considered non-marital property.
One critical consideration is that non-marital property can actually become marital property depending on the use during the marriage. For example, if a wife had a bank account prior to marriage and, after marriage, funds were withdrawn from that account and invested in a joint account, gains from that account could qualify as marital property.
Alternatives to Equitable Distribution
The process of dividing assets via equitable distribution during a divorce can be a rather straightforward process, or it can be rather complex depending on the nature of the couple’s estate and the judgment of the courts. For this reason, couples sometimes elect to enter negotiations to review and settle these matters through mediation with the help of an experienced attorney.
Another consideration when planning for property division is whether or not a prenuptial agreement (a “prenup”) was created prior to the marriage. If there is a prenup in place, the courts are likely to divide assets according to the terms outlined in that agreement first.
The Value of Expert Counsel
With over three decades of experience in multiple areas of family law, the Media divorce lawyers at Barbara Flum Stein & Associates have helped numerous couples settle their assets responsibly and amicably. Contact our offices today to get more information and ensure your divorce litigation is handled the right way from day one.