Several years ago your father passed away and left you a substantial sum of money. Now that you are getting divorced, you are wondering if your future ex-wife is entitled to a portion of it.
Getting divorced is a very complicated process, especially when there is property involved. This is why it is important to understand Pennsylvania marital property laws. While the information below contains the basics of how the state will divide property, an experienced divorce attorney can walk you through the detail of the entire process.
In general, all of the property that you and your wife acquired during the course of your marriage the state considers marital property. This means that it will be subject to division as part of your divorce settlement. Fortunately, the state does make a distinction between marital property and separate property.
What is considered separate property?
In Pennsylvania, any property that you acquired before the marriage is separate property and not subject to division. Furthermore, anything that you acquired after the two of you were married that was a gift or bequest is also separate property in the court's eyes. This means that your inheritance will not be included as part of the property divided by the settlement.
Any money that you or your wife earned during the marriage is marital property as far as the state is concerned. In addition, any property that you purchased or acquired with joint funds or the money earned during the marriage is also marital property. The court will divide these items between the two of you in a manner that it considers fair.
What does equitable division mean?
Pennsylvania divorce courts divide marital property according the principles of equitable division. This means that, as mentioned above, the court will divide the property in a way that seems fair. It does not necessarily mean that it will be an even split. It is possible that the court will decide that your wife is entitled to more of the marital property than you are. In order to make its decision, the court will examine certain factors such as earning ability, length of the marriage and even the tax consequences of dividing the property.
If you and your future ex-wife do not want to leave the property division in the hands of a judge, the two of you have the right to come to an agreement outside of the court. Your attorneys can negotiate a settlement that you both agree to before filing the divorce petition with the court. For help managing your divorce, contact a local Pennsylvania attorney experienced with family law.