Whether a couple agrees to separate in an amicable fashion or is involved in a heated and emotional divorce battle, there are many difficult topics that must be discussed. Dividing joint property that has been accumulated through years of marriage can be extremely trying, even for couples who wish to end their marriage in a civil manner. People simply become attached to their things, and it can be hard to hand those beloved items over to another person. Pennsylvania couples know that if they are unable to reach an agreement regarding their division of property, the court system will separate the property for them.

Equitable distribution of property

According to Pennsylvania state legislation, state officials follow the equitable distribution of property model when it comes to dividing marital belongings and assets. Under this model, the items and assets are split fairly, which does not mean that they are split equally. The judge presiding over the divorce case will carefully consider the specific circumstances of the case. They will then use that information to determine who gets what in the final divorce settlement.

The Pennsylvania state code describes the following factors that judges will consider when making their final decision:

  • The age, health and employment of each spouse.
  • Whether each spouse has a job. If the spouse does not have a job, the judge will look at their education level to determine the likelihood that they will find employment.
  • How many years the marriage lasted.
  • The income of each spouse, including insurance, social security, disability and retirement benefits.
  • The couple’s standard of living that was established during the marriage.
  • Whether the spouse has custody of the children.

If one spouse financially contributed to the education or career of the other spouse or stayed at home while the other spouse pursued their career or education goals, the judge will take that into consideration as well. Judges must also determine the value of the items before they are able to divide them.

What is separate property?

Although marital property is eligible for division, there may be separate property involved, which is not eligible for property distribution. Separate property consists of items that were owned by a spouse before the marriage took place or have been obtained after the divorce was filed. Any gifts that are received while a person is married, including inheritance funds, are also considered separate.

People should be cautious handling separate property throughout a marriage. Any property that is retitled to include the other spouse on the deed or assets that are deposited into a joint bank account becomes marital property, and is able to be distributed in a divorce situation.

Contact an attorney

When going through a divorce, it may be extremely helpful to partner with an attorney who has extensive knowledge of Pennsylvania state law. An attorney at Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki, Smith, P.C., can work to see that you get what is rightfully yours during the divorce and help walk you through the divorce process.