How do Pennsylvania courts divide property in a divorce?

There are a number of factors that a judge may consider when dividing assets during a divorce in Pennsylvania.

One of the most common issues facing people in Pennsylvania who are ending their marriage is how their assets will be divided. In some cases, a couple may be able to come to an agreement on their own. They may be able to assess the items and come up with a fair split. Even in these circumstances, a judge has to approve the division to ensure its viability.

When people cannot agree on how property will be allocated, a judge will do it for them. Here, we take a look at the factors that come into play when this occurs.

Equitable distribution

Pennsylvania is one of many states across the country that uses an equitable distribution approach to property division. This does not mean that assets are split equally; instead, it means that they are split fairly. Before actually determining who gets what, however, it is important to understand which items are even eligible for division.

Marital property

Only marital property may be divided between the spouses. This refers to items that were acquired after the marriage. Separate property or items owned solely by one spouse is not eligible. This would entail assets acquired prior to the marriage. However, some items acquired after the marriage - such as inheritance or a gift - may be considered separate property and would be excluded from the division process.

It should be noted that even assets that only one spouse seemingly owns may still be divided. For example, if, after the wedding, the couple buys a house but only puts the home in one person's name, the property is still considered marital and would therefore be subject to a split.

Key considerations

Once all the assets have been determined to be either separate or marital, the division procedure begins. Under Pennsylvania law, some of the main considerations a judge may take into account include how long the marriage lasted and each spouse's contribution to the marriage. Other factors include the following:

  • Each spouse's income and benefits
  • Any prior marriages
  • Each spouse's health and age
  • The standard of living during the course of the marriage
  • Any tax implications

A judge may also make special considerations when there are children involved. The judge could base a property division decision on which spouse will have custody of a child.

The law states that if either party violates a court order, the other party may seek legal action. Property may even be seized, depending on the case.

Although divorce is a highly emotional and stressful event, it is imperative to remain logical when property is at stake. Anyone who has questions about this issue should speak with a family law attorney in Pennsylvania.