Often in a divorce, there will be some property that is deemed to be separate property. This means the property specifically belongs to one of the two divorcing parties rather than having belonged to the combined marital estate. Generally, separate property is off of the table in a divorce's division of property and will remain with the party it belongs to in a divorce.
Here in Pennsylvania, there are several different things that can contribute to whether a certain asset is separate property.
One is the timing of the acquiring of the asset. If the asset was obtained before the marriage, it is generally found to be separate property belonging to the person who obtained it.
What resources were used to acquire the asset can also be a factor. Being purchased using money that was obtained prior to the marriage can make an asset separate property.
Another factor is what the method was through which the asset was obtained. There are certain methods of obtaining an asset, such as receiving an asset as part of an inheritance, that make an asset separate property regardless of when it was received.
For some types of assets, special factors are considered when deciding whether the asset is separate property. For example, when it comes to a business and the business' income, their status as separate or marital property is dependent on the origin points of the business' value.
Sometimes, an asset's status as separate or marital property is very clear, while other times the classification issue can be a bit cloudy. Given that separate property generally isn't divided in a divorce, the issue of whether a given asset is separate property or marital property can be a very significant one. Thus, when disputes or questions arise regarding property classification in a divorce, a person may want to go to a family law attorney for advice and guidance.
Source: FindLaw, "Pennsylvania Marital Property Laws," Accessed Sept. 18, 2014