Division of Assets
Division of Assets
In Pennsylvania, when a couple is divorcing, the legal term for dividing marital assets and marital debts is equitable distribution. Pennsylvania is known as an equitable distribution state and not a community property state. Our courts divide marital property and debts based on the principles of equity. That means it is in the discretion of the court to divide marital assets and marital debts as it sees fair. Equitable distribution does not always mean that property and debts will be equally divided. The goal is to achieve an equitable, or fair, distribution of property, investments and retirement benefits (including 401(k) accounts).
Factors Considered In Equitable Distribution
Fault or marital misconduct is not taken into consideration during equitable distribution. Pennsylvania courts may use some of the following in determining equitable distribution:
- Length of marriage
- Previous marriages
- Age of both parties
- Health of both parties
- Income of both parties
- Employability of both parties
- Amount of non-marital assets
- Prenuptial agreements
- Who will have custody of children (when applicable)
- Did either person help the advancement of the other’s income
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Tax implications
Marital Property or Marital Assets
If a settlement cannot be reached prior to entering the court system, the court will divide the marital assets in a way it deems fair given the particular circumstances of the cases. Marital assets are also referred to as marital property. Marital assets can include a home, cars, furniture, businesses owned by the parties, jewelry, art, investments and retirement accounts. Anything purchased during the period of time considered as “the marriage” will be deemed marital property, even if it was purchased or put in only one party’s name. For example, even if your name does not appear on the title to a vehicle purchased by your spouse during your marriage you may be entitled to half of that vehicle.
Non-Marital Assets or Separate Property
In Pennsylvania, the law allows separate or non-marital assets to be omitted from the equitable distribution process. Any property that was excluded by a prenuptial agreement will not be included in the equitable distribution. Any property brought into the marriage and kept separate during the marriage is also considered non-marital property. Gifts received by just one spouse during the marriage may also be kept separate. Inheritances received before or during the marriage that are kept separate may also be excluded. However, if the value of any of the non-marital property increases during the marriage, the increase in value may be considered marital property. If a spouse chooses to use non-marital funds for a common purchase, like buying a home, that money will often be considered marital property.
In Pennsylvania, marital debts are defined as debts that were acquired by either spouse after the marriage date and before the date of separation. Common marital debts include credit card bills, mortgages, car loans, home equity loans, tax obligations and judgments. Even if a credit card was only in one spouse’s name, if the credit card was used during the marriage, both parties are responsible.
Attorney Heidi Noll has helped her clients locate hidden assets and income that a spouse may possess in an attempt to wrongly and fraudulently attempt to keep a marital asset for themselves. Occasionally someone will try to hide assets in order to pay less or receive more support. Attorney Noll offers each client an individual solution for remedies sought such as:
- Requesting the court impose a lien as security for the payment of alimony or any other award for the other party
- Awarding the right to live in the marital property to one party to the exclusion of the other
- Requesting the court to direct one party to continue to pay health insurance or life insurance on behalf of the other party
- Requesting special relief, including injunctions or orders necessary to prevent the removal, dissipation, transferring or encumbering of real or personal property
The Pennsylvania Divorce Code
The Pennsylvania Divorce Code controls your divorce if you do not agree on the division of property and debts on your own. If you have a prenuptial agreement that does not include something that is available to you according to Pennsylvania Law, you may still be able to assert those rights.