Couples filing for divorce in Pennsylvania must resolve many issues, but the division of marital assets is often the most contentious part of the divorce. Various factors go into this, including emotional attachment to certain assets attained during the marriage, fear that a spouse may not have enough money to live on, or other issues specific to the couple.
Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, which means a fair and equitable split of marital assets, but that may not mean 50/50. If one spouse earns much more than the other, the higher-earning spouse is generally entitled to a more significant percentage of those assets. If the marriage was long, the lower-earning spouse would typically get a more equal split. Examples of valuable marital assets include:
· Family home
· A business started or grew substantially after the marriage
· Real estate
· Motor vehicles purchased during the marriage
· Artwork, jewelry and other valuables
What is separate property?
Separate property obtained before the marriage remains with the individual spouse unless the asset is commingled with marital assets – an example would be one spouse buying a house, and then the other spouse moved in when they married and lived there for years sharing the mortgage payment. Inheritance, gifts and personal injury settlements are also separate, even when received during the marriage.
Dividing it up
Couples will often divide a list of assets into three groups: need, want and don’t care. Ideally, the two sides can negotiate who gets what. The assets should have an agreed-upon value so that the division fits with the predetermined split based on income. As with assets, couples also need to divide up any debt accrued.
Dividing a business can also get complicated, with the primary owner buying out their spouse, letting them keep a portion, or selling the business. If they buy out the spouse’s interest, drafting a payment schedule may be necessary unless the home or other assets are valuable enough to cover the buyout. If the two sides do not agree on the split of the value of the assets, they may need to litigate the matter in court.
Attorneys often can negotiate a fair settlement
Family law attorneys often handle disputes over property division and can develop creative ways to resolve conflicts. Clients should discuss expectations regarding assets when they meet with their attorney for the first time. This early conversation helps ensure that client and attorney agree on how to proceed.