The Equitable Division of Assets During Divorce in Pennsylvania

When couples in Lackawanna County divorce, the process can be riddled with trying emotions and stress. One of the reasons why this process can be stressful for couples is because divorce means that the couple has to decide who gets what. Everything from the house, car, student loans and credit card debt must be divided.

Marital Versus Separate Property

It is critical for divorcing couples to understand the difference between marital and separate property. Separate property includes:

· Any property that was owned by a spouse prior to marriage.

· A gift received by a husband or wife from a third party.

· An inheritance that is received either before or after the marriage.

· Any compensation acquired by a spouse from a personal injury settlement.

Couples should also be aware that separate property can lose its status as such if it is mixed in with marital property. For example, if a husband receives an inheritance from a deceased relative and then deposits it into a joint bank account, that property may be considered marital property. Usually, marital property is any property acquired during a couple's marriage.

Factors That Play Into the Distribution Process

Since Pennsylvania is not a community property state, assets are divided according to a set of equitable distribution rules. Unlike a community property state where assets are simply divided in half, a judge will determine how a couple's assets will be divided in lieu of their circumstances. This puts the power of which assets go to who almost entirely in the hands of a judge.

The court may consider things like the ability of each spouse to support themselves financially, the length of the marriage and the age, health and educational training of each spouse. One situation in particular that often causes one spouse to receive a greater share of the assets is if they gave up a potential career to stay at home and raise a family.

Protecting Assets With a Prenuptial Agreement

Because the division of assets is often left up to the opinion of a judge, one way couples can protect their interests in the case of divorce is either with a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. This document outlines how a couple will divide their home, cars, properties, debts and retirement funds if they ever divorce. Specifying which assets will go to which spouse in case of divorce can take away the added stress that comes with dividing assets without this agreement.

If you and your spouse are considering divorce, consult with an attorney in your area to find out how you can protect your financial interests during the divorce process.