West Chester, PA 19380
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Lee Ciccarelli is the founder and managing partner of Ciccarelli Law Offices with over two decades experience as a practicing attorney.
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Pennsylvania is a state that practices "equitable distribution" of marital property during a divorce. The means the court looks at everything that is considered within the marital estate and makes a determination, based on a list of factors under the law, what would be a fair division of property. The court is required to give, in writing, its justification how it determined this fair division.
There are other matters that may affect division of assets in Pennsylvania, including:
Pennsylvania is not a community property state. In a community property state, like California or Texas, the spouses are joint owners of all marital property and the court's job is often to find a way to split everything 50/50. Equitable distribution is not equal distribution — the court's job is to make a split it judges to be fair.
If you're pursuing a divorce in Pennsylvania, one of your chief concerns is likely to be how you'll fare with the estate and what you'll lose as a result of the end of your marriage. Our team of ChesCo divorce lawyers at Ciccarelli Law Offices will be on your side, working to get you the best result possible. Our team effort is to be both thorough with our analysis and honest with you about our assessment, and we'll negotiate and argue for your fair share, regardless of your circumstances.
Call us today at (877) 529-2422 to learn more about your options during a free initial consultation. You can meet with one of our attorneys conveniently at an office location in Lancaster, Philadelphia, Plymouth Meeting, West Chester, Kennett Square, Malvern, Springfield, King of Prussia, or Radnor.
In a divorce, both parties must submit an inventory, or list, of all the property they own or possess and all their liabilities at the date of separation, which is the day someone filed for divorce, and at the 30-day mark prior to the hearing where the court considers distribution. The includes all personal items, automobiles, equipment, collectibles, real property, bank accounts, cash, stocks, bonds, retirement accounts and business interests, along with all debts.
The marital estate is all property gained during the marriage. It does not include property that was acquired before the marriage. For instance, if Spouse A owned a sports car at the time she married Spouse B, the sports car is not marital property. Property gained in exchange for property owned prior to marriage is also excluded — if, after Spouse A was married, she traded the sports car for a horse, the horse would not be considered marital property.
Marital property also does not include gifts made by people other than one of the spouses. For instance, if Spouse A's wealthy aunt gave her a commercial property in her will three years before the divorce was filed, the commercial property is Spouse A's and not considered marital property.
Marital property, however, does include any increases in value to the property exclusions listed above. Let's say the commercial property just mentioned was worth $150,000 at the time it was given. After Spouse A received the commercial property, a housing development is built nearby, and at the time of the filing of the divorce, the value of the commercial property goes up to $250,000. While $150,000 would not be marital property, $100,000 would be marital property.
When determining marital property, the court will honor any prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement and exclude any property outlined. It also exclude veterans' benefits, except when the veteran has waived to receive compensation, as well as any award or settlement that was awarded before the marriage but not received until after the marriage.
Any debts are also considered part of the marital property, and work much the same way. A debt acquired before the marriage will not be marital property, while a debt acquired during the marriage would be. If Spouse A goes to medical school before the marriage and acquires student debt while attending, the debt is not marital property. If Spouse A goes while married, the student debt is marital property. If Spouse B racks up a big credit card bill during the marriage, Spouse A may be liable for a portion of it after the divorce.
The factors the court may use a set of factors listed in Pennsylvania Statutes Title 23, Section 3502 to make a determination of how to fairly divide marital property. It may only include these factors. They include:
Note what may not be considered by the court: fault for the divorce. The court may not consider whether one person caused the divorce. Sometimes, people pursue an at-fault divorce because they believe that since their spouse committed adultery or abandoned the marriage, that the spouse will be denied the benefit of marital property. The law, however, specifically forbids the court from taking fault into account.
The court may also take each asset, consider it individually and assign a different percentage to each spouse for each item. For example, the court may decide that Spouse A personally spent time renovating a home and therefore deserves 80 percent of the house, while Spouse B spent time raising the family pet, and deserves 70 percent of the value of the pet.
The court may make a partial distribution between the separation (date of filing) and the divorce if necessary to meet one of the spouse's needs. The court may also order that one of the spouses has sole custody of the family home.
If you are facing a divorce, an experienced West Chester divorce lawyer can help you get your fair share. We work with clients throughout the Philadelphia area and Southeastern Pennsylvania region, including Coatesville, Phoenixville, Willow Street, Lancaster, Ephrata, Newtown Square, Glen Mills, Media, Swarthmore, Radnor, and nearby communities. Call Ciccarelli Law Offices today at (877) 529-2422 to set up a free consultation to discuss your case.