Seth Eric Springer, Esq.
Is PA a 50/50 Divorce State?
The divorce preparation in Pennsylvania often deals with how to divide marital property. The parties deal with determining which property is considered a marital one. It also addresses which spouse should walk away with what property.
Divorce in PA also comes with a lot of common myths. Many clients come into law offices with a misconception that marital property is divided 50/50.
While several states mandate a 50/50 marital property distribution, Pennsylvania does not. Instead, it is an equitable distribution state. The distribution of property depends upon the different factors stated in the Divorce Code. In some cases, 50/0 is equitable, or sometimes, it is fairer to have a disproportion of assets division.
As much as possible, the divorcing spouses must work with an attorney for negotiation and agreement about the division of marital property. The divorce lawyers from divorce law firms in York will counsel them on the PA equitable division laws and discuss how judges may apply the laws to a particular case. If both parties know how the judge will divide the marital property, they are most likely to negotiate a fair division or at least have an idea of what to expect about the judge’s decision.
Distinction Between Marital and Non-Marital Property
Not all property is subjected to equitable distribution. The marital property laws in Pennsylvania characterize property as marital or nonmarital.
Generally, marital property includes property that the spouse acquires during the marriage or with funds earned during the marriage. It also consists of the increased non-marital property value up to the date of separation.
For instance, if one spouse has a retirement account with $150,000 value on the day of the marriage, it is not considered marital property. That is because the retirement account value was acquired before the marriage. If the value increases to $200,000 upon the separation, only $50,000 is subject to equitable division and considered marital property instead of the entire $200,000.
On the other hand, if a spouse starts to work during the marriage with a retirement account of $200,000 at the time of separation, the entire $200,000 is considered marital property. That is because the entire value was acquired or earned during the marriage.
Under Pennsylvania divorce law, income and assets acquired during the marriage are considered marital property, such as investments, retirement accounts, house, business, vehicles, art, or furniture. The title does not necessarily determine the designation of the property as marital or nonmarital.
Here are some examples of non-marital property:
· Property acquired prior to the marriage
· Property acquired after the separation
· Property excluded from the marital property by a valid pre-or post-nuptial agreement
· Gifts and inheritances received during the marriage (excluding gifts between the spouses)
· Specific veterans’ benefits
Any amount acquired as a result of settlement or award of a claim, which is accrued before the marriage or after the final separation date no matter when the payment was received.
How Does a Judge Decide the Division of Marital Property?
If the divorcing parties fail to reach an agreement with regards to dividing the marital property, they may end up in court, where a judge decides for them.
A judge decides based on several factors, such as:
· The duration of the marriage
· The economic circumstances of each spouse during the division of assets
· The standard of living during the marriage
· The contribution of each spouse as a homemaker
· The employability of each spouse
· The health and age of each spouse
· The income, assets, and debts of each spouse
In certain cases, such as an abandonment in a marriage in Pennsylvania, the abandoned spouse can use any or all property in the marital home. They can even sell the property itself. But just to be sure, it would be best to consult a lawyer first before doing anything.
Property Distribution Percentages
While Pennsylvania is not a 50/50 divorce state, a 50/50 property division is common in practice. If both parties have the same marital assets and incomes from their jobs, the court usually orders a 50/50 division. The divorce lawyers often facilitate the divorce settlements.
However, some cases make the distribution percentage difficult. The opinions in determining the distribution percentages vary, if:
· One spouse has a higher earning capacity
· One spouse has student loans
· One spouse has non-marital property
For these cases, lawyers rely on the prior experiences in similar cases to counsel them on what is equitable and not equitable.
Marital property distribution can be a bit misleading, but with the correct information and legal guidance, the entire process becomes straightforward. Lawyers can also help with other divorce-related issues such as defining the grounds for divorce in PA.