Division Of Property
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Division of Property
Marriage carries certain legal implications with respect to property, money, and debt. Barring a pre- or post-nuptial agreement to the contrary, being legally married means financial assets and obligations are shared between both parties.
In Pennsylvania, the assets and debts you and your spouse acquired during the marriage — your marital estate — is divided in the process of the divorce called “Equitable Distribution”.
Bear in mind that equitable means fair, and fair does not always mean equal.
It’s also important to reiterate that when couples divorce it’s not just their assets that are divided, it’s their debts, as well. That means the obligation to pay off joint mortgages, car loans and credit card debt accrued during the marriage is the shared obligation of both parties, regardless of title during the marriage.
Marital Property During Divorce: Who Owns What?
“Marital Property” consists of assets acquired by partners between the date of marriage and date of separation, regardless of title during the marriage. Most, but not all of this property is regarded as shared, although each spouse may claim sole ownership of certain items as a practical matter.
Assets acquired prior to the marriage, inheritances, trusts and personal injury lawsuit awards are generally considered separate property. The exception is when such assets are "commingled" with marital property, making it difficult to separate them out.
Ideally, divorcing couples, with the help of their attorneys and possibly a third-party mediator, are able to agree on how marital property will be divided. But if a mutual agreement cannot be reached, it is up to the Court to make the final decisions on who gets what. Under Pennsylvania’s equitable division model, the Court evaluates the financial needs and assets of each party when considering the division of property. Considerations can include:
How long the couple has been married
The financial needs and liabilities of each spouse, present and future
The relative abilities of each spouse to earn a living, now and in the future
The degree to which each spouse has contributed to the combined marital property
Pensions earned by either spouse
Non-monetary contributions to the family (such as child-rearing, unpaid work on the home, etc.)
Joint debt accumulated during the marriage
Age, health, and special needs of each spouse
Child support and/or spousal support obligations from previous relationships
Total fair market value of separate property
Marital misconduct by either spouse (e.g., gambling debts, extramarital affairs, or instances of domestic violence)
While every aspect of divorce can be difficult, reaching a fair and equitable agreement on who walks away from the relationship with what is particularly challenging. You need the experienced advocates of Liebmann Family Law in your corner to ensure you get what you deserve.