When two people get divorced they are faced with the challenge of dividing their property so that they can both move on with their lives once the divorce process is over. In Pennsylvania, only the assets deemed “martial property” are divided.
Marital property is acquired during the course of a marriage and is bought with money either spouse earned during the time that the two were wed. Debts and assets that were obtained through money earned before of separate from the marriage is separate property. This means these may have been acquired before the marriage began, or they may be gifts or inheritances that were given to one spouse alone, rather than to both people as a married couple.
Generally speaking, any separate property or debt is usually awarded to its original owner. Marital property is divided according to what the court deems as fair. While in some cases the court may define “fair” in a way that is similar to “equal” this is not necessarily the case, and not knowing how the division of property is going to go can make it more difficult for individuals to make plans for how they want to live their lives after the divorce is final. Because of this, couples often work with mediators and other arbitrators to help them decide what is fair together and maintain more control over the process.
What the Court Considers
It is usually best for couples to decide for themselves what is fair when it comes to property division. When courts are tasked with these decisions, there are a number of factors that come into play. Some of these include: the duration of the marriage, support obligations for previous marriages, tax consequences of dividing property, each spouse’s earning capability, current income, and level of debt, and their age and state of health. The court may consider other factors too, as they see fit.
When couples do not agree what is fair when it comes to dividing property, as well as other issues such as alimony, child custody and support the divorce process can sometimes become drawn out and tense for everyone involved. A good lawyer will look out for their client’s best interest, but at the same time promote civil communications between spouses and their attorneys in order to come to as many decisions as possible together as peacefully as possible in order to help everyone move forward with their lives.