In a divorce, a couple must divide their assets according to one of the predominant approaches taken by the courts. One approach is referred to as equitable distribution and another is community property. In equitable distribution, assets are divided based on a judge’s evaluation of what is fair under each couple’s specific circumstances. In community property, assets are divided based on an equal split between the two parties. Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state. Equitable distribution of property involves separating the marital assets fairly, considering all the relevant factors.
What is Marital Property?
Marital property is property jointly owned by the couple. Most property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property. Examples include purchase of a home during the marriage as well as items, such as vehicles and furniture. This is true even if the title or deed to property is only in the name of one of the spouses. All marital property is subject to equitable distribution. Marital property includes gifts given from one spouse to the other. The value of gifts is considered by the court in its analysis of equitable distribution of the marital estate.
What is Separate Property?
Separate property is owned by only one spouse. Examples include property owned before the couple was married. Another important example of separate property is an inheritance. An inheritance can be considered separate property owned by the beneficiary that has bequeathed the property. However, an inheritance can be considered marital property by a court in some cases.
If money received through an inheritance is put into a joint bank account with the spouse and used for the shared household, then courts are unlikely to treat it as separate property. Also, if funds from an inheritance are commingled in a joint account, the inheritance is likely to be considered marital property. To protect the status of an inheritance as separate property, efforts must be made to maintain exclusive ownership and control.
Property that has been excluded from the marital estate by a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is also considered separate property by the courts. However, courts can consider the value of such excluded property as a factor to consider when deciding equitable distribution of the marital estate.
Determining the Date of Separation
Pennsylvania courts consider a couple to be separated when they meet the separate and apart standard. This is not necessarily the day they stop living in the same place. It is possible that financial considerations, caretaking of the children, or other reasons exist for remaining under the same roof while leading separate lives. One way to establish a date is the act of filing a divorce complaint with the court.
Getting divorced is a decision that has many long-term consequences. Getting effective and responsive representation will make a big difference in how a divorce gets resolved.
Media Divorce Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Clients with Assets During Divorce
The division of assets is an important part of divorce. A Media divorce lawyer at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. can help you with all aspects of your divorce case. Complete our online form or call us at 610-565-3701 for an initial consultation. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.