Making the decision to file for divorce is never easy. One of the most difficult parts of terminating a marriage may be property division.
Whether you choose to divide your marital property through mediation, or you leave the final decision to the courts, it is critical to understand how the process works.
Marital vs. separate property
Marital property includes all property and assets accumulated throughout the marriage, according to Pennsylvania statutes. In addition to the family home, vehicles, furniture and other possessions, marital property includes 401k plans, retirement plans, stocks and term life insurance policies.
Separate property, on the other hand, involves items that you owned prior to becoming married. It also includes inheritance money and presents given to you by a third party. To remain separate property, however, the property and assets must remain solely in your name and you cannot combine them with your spouse.
Equitable division of property
Pennsylvania is one of many states in the nation that follows the equitable division of the property model. This means that marital property is divided according to what the court deems fair and equitable. The judge presiding over the case ultimately makes a decision as to who receives what based on several factors. These include the following:
- Amount of time the couple was married
- Age and health of each party
- Occupation and income of each party
- Liabilities involved in the separation
The judge may also take into account whether there are children involved and the impact it will have on their lives.
You can bypass the traditional litigation process by going through mediation. Mediation sessions allow you to negotiate the terms of your property division without the court’s involvement.