Despite greater access to couples counseling and other mediation efforts, divorce rates have changed little over the past few decades. In Pennsylvania alone, there were 58,960 marriages in 2020, but some 28,884 couples filed for a divorce or an annulment.
Next to child custody and support, one of the major points of contention during divorce proceedings is deciding how assets will be divided.
Divorce and division of assets in Pennsylvania
Marital property is assets accumulated during the marriage regardless of who paid for them. For example, a home purchased by a couple after marriage still belongs to both partners, even in homes with one wage earner. Bank accounts could still be considered marital property even when each partner maintains a separate account as long as the money that funds them was earned during the marriage.
This is why people worry about whether their state is a community property state when considering divorce or separation.
Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state. This means that although all property acquired and money earned during the marriage is considered marital property, not all assets are subject to an equal 50/50 division. Instead, it is distributed according to what Pennsylvania courts determine is most fair.
- Income and liabilities of each partner
- Duration of the marriage
- Age and health of each partner
- Ability for self-sustenance after the divorce
- Financial obligations to previous spouses and children
- Expectations for retirement benefits or pensions
Exclusions that make something separate, non-marital property include:
- Gifts or bequests
- Assets obtained or purchased before marriage
- Assets purchased by income earned before marriage
The good news is that petitioners can protect assets like art collections during the divorce process and come out relatively unscathed.
Protecting assets during the divorce process
Inventory an art collection as you would for insurance purposes. Catalog each piece, when and where it was purchased, and include the latest valuation. Store this information on a cloud as images and/or in a safe deposit box. This will provide an accurate, updated inventory, including a provable trail of what is separate, non-marital property.
Beware of selling or transferring assets during a separation, as the financial gain could factor into the final financial settlement. Hiding assets is illegal both during a marriage and while in the divorce process.