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How Pennsylvania law governs property division during divorce

For Pennsylvania couples who go through divorce, there are several issues that can create strong and often negative emotions. Property division is certainly one of them. This is not surprising considering that the finances of both spouses are at stake and that the decisions they make now will affect them for years. For this reason, divorcing Pennsylvanians should be aware of the state laws governing the division of property.

Equitable division of property is the prevailing guideline in Pennsylvania. This means that marital property is split fairly although not necessarily equally. Marital assets are those either spouse acquired during the course of the marriage other than by gift or inheritance. Separate property is that property owned by a spouse before the marriage or acquired through gift or inheritance. For some couples, premarital agreements spell out what is to be considered separate property.

Courts use several factors to determine how each asset should be divided, including the length of the marriage, each spouse's contribution to the marriage, their age and health and the amount and sources of their income. Each spouse's employability, liabilities and needs are also considered so that property distribution is ultimately fair and reasonable for both spouses.

Courts will also consider whether either spouse contributed to the education or training of the other in any way that increased earning power. The same considerations apply to opportunities to acquire capital assets and income. Courts also weigh medical benefits, health and life insurance and retirement benefits. Also assessed are the current market values of all property, particularly real estate, as well as investment and business assets; both the appreciated and depreciated values of those properties are also considered.

How marital property is distributed affects both spouses' financial situations. Equitable property division seeks to account for all assets and provide both spouses their fair share.

Source: Legis.State.Pa.US, "Equitable division of marital property", Accessed on Mar. 2, 2015

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