What is equitable division?
Part of most divorce proceedings is the division of the marital property between the spouses. As an equitable division state, Pennsylvania does not simply divide the property in half and assign each spouse a share. Instead, equitable division requires a fair division of assets and property between the parties without considering marital misconduct. While no universal definition of fairness exists, judges consider a number of factors, including:
- The length of marriage
- The age of the spouses
- The health of the spouses
- The earning potential of each spouse
- The standard of living each spouse became accustomed to during the marriage
- The contributions to the marriage, including nonmonetary contributions such as childcare and household chores
- The contribution by one spouse to the education or training of the other spouse
Due to this number of factors, division of marital property can be an area of great uncertainty and doubt. In addition, it can be an area of excessive litigation. At the Varga Law Offices, we strive to control the process and avoid excessive litigation.
How a home is divided after a divorce
Pennsylvania requires marital assets and debts to be divided equitably as part of the divorce process. Marital assets and debts are those acquired during the marriage or defined in a prenuptial agreement. Separate property is property (or debt) obtained prior to the marriage or following the separation of the parties. However, even separate property can have marital value. For example, if one spouse owned a rare coin prior to the marriage the coin would be separate property. However, any appreciation in value of the coin during the marriage would be marital property. Likewise, marital property can also have separate value. If one spouse establishes a retirement plan during the marriage and continues to make contributions following the separation of the parties, then the property is commingled — the contributions during the marriage are treated as marital property while those post-divorce contributions are separate.
Therefore, how and when your home was acquired can often determine who gets to keep it. Simply because you leave the home for safety or practicality does not mean that you have forfeited your claim to it. Although many people believe this would be abandonment, that is not the case. A spouse who owned the home individually before the marriage likely keeps the home but may owe the other spouse the value of any appreciation that occurred during the marriage. If the house was jointly acquired during the marriage, the distribution of the property is less clear. Therefore, a lawyer to advocate on your behalf may be essential.
Debt responsibility after a divorce
As part of a divorce proceeding, debts must also be divided between the spouses. Debts incurred during marriage are nearly always considered marital debts and are equitably divided between the two spouses. However, if one spouse can show reason to assign the debt solely to the other spouse, the court has the discretion to do so. Even debts incurred prior to and following the separation of the parties can be considered marital if they were for a marital purpose. An experienced attorney can advocate on your behalf so that you do not have to pay your former spouse’s debts.
Contact our Media, PA family law firm for property division advice
Equitable division of property is an extremely complex area where the judge’s discretion can often feel unfair. The Varga Law Offices has helped numerous Pennsylvanians who are going through a divorce to retain the property they earned. Call us today at 610.892.9909 or contact us online. Our office is conveniently located near the county courthouse and is open from Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., with alternate hours available by appointment.