Divorcing spouses usually have assets – non-marital and marital – and debts that need to be divided as a natural part of the divorce process. This property distributing process is legally known as equitable distribution. When spouses cannot agree about the division of marital assets and debts, the spouses may elect to allow the court to distribute their property. However, if either spouse is concerned about cost efficiency, using a mediator to distribute property may be a better option.
In Pennsylvania, there are two different types of assets: non-marital and marital. Non-marital assets are not generally part of the equitable distribution process. Some examples of non-marital assets are: pre-marital assets (property that one spouse brought to the marriage), inheritances received during the marriage, gifts (other than gifts received by the other spouse), sold or disposed of property that was discarded in good faith during the marriage, and any other property disclosed in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. While none of the aforementioned property is considered marital property, the court may consider the appreciation in value of the non-marital property during the marriage as marital. Additionally, if spouses decide to use non-marital funds for a marital purpose, such as a large down payment on a house or car, then those assets would change from non-marital to marital.
Unlike non-marital assets, marital assets are property and income that were acquired during the marriage. Marital assets can include a home, a car, a business that was started by both spouses during the marriage, retirement accounts, etc. Regardless if the asset is only in one spouse’s name – such as a house only being deed in one spouse’s name – the property is likely still marital if it was acquired during the marriage and neither a prenuptial nor a postnuptial agreement exist. As briefly mentioned above, some marital assets can be derived from non-marital property. In this case, the court may exclude the non-marital value from the Pennsylvania equitable distribution process.
Marital debts are debts that were accrued by the spouses after the date of the marriage until the date of final separation. Just as a marital asset is marital even if it is only in one spouse’s name, marital debts are the same. As long as the debt was acquired during the marriage and was, arguably, for a martial purpose, then it is considered a marital debt. Some examples of marital debt include: credit card balances, mortgages, loans, tax obligations, and judgments.