Dividing assets in a divorce can be one of the most contentious elements of this process. People want to feel like their settlement is fair and reflects what they feel they deserve, but divorcing spouses can have very different opinions on what is fair and what the other person deserves.
To prepare for this aspect of a divorce, parties would be wise to familiarize themselves with how assets are divided in Pennsylvania. Below, we give a general overview of the process and what people can expect.
Determining what is eligible
In Pennsylvania, we comply with equitable distribution laws. This means that all eligible assets will be divided fairly. This doesn’t mean they will be split equally, though parties often walk away with roughly half of the marital estate.
Understand that not everything is eligible for division in a divorce. Separate property, which is property owned by only one person, typically remains with the owner. This can include inheritances, gifts and any property parties identified as separate in a prenuptial agreement.
Everything else, from the marital home and cars to personal property and retirement accounts, will likely be distributed as part of the divorce settlement.
Deciding who gets what
Deciding how to actually divide property can happen in a couple ways. Often, divorcing spouses will work together in mediation or collaborative divorce sessions to determine who gets what property. They will decide what is fair and then divide property accordingly.
If parties cannot work this out themselves, either because it is too complicated or too contentious, then the courts can make the decision. Judges will take into account numerous factors, including the length of the marriage, both parties’ financial resources and earning capacities, as well as the financial and non-financial contributions of each person.
Pursuing a fair outcome
As readers should see, there is no fixed rule or equation for dividing property. Every settlement depends on the unique factors of each case. That said, it may come as a relief to know that is it not an all-or-nothing process, and that both parties can play a pivotal role in determining how they divide their property.