Equitable and Community Property Division Rules Are Not the Same
More than 700,000 Pennsylvania residents are divorced. This state operates under equitable property division guidelines in divorce proceedings. A spouse who assumes that he or she will automatically walk away with a 50/50 split of marital property is mistaken.
Property Division Rules Vary by State
Divorce laws vary by state. There are currently 41 states that operate under equitable property division guidelines and nine states that use community property rules. In every state, marital property and marital debt refer to assets or liabilities spouses have acquired or incurred during the marriage.
A family court judge overseeing property division proceedings will determine how marital property and marital debt should be split between spouses to settle a divorce. A divorce lawyer can help a concerned spouse protect his or her financial interests in court. Certain divorce-related topics can make property division more complex, such as if spouses have children together and must determine whether they will continue to live in the marital household and, if so, who will live with them as well as who will pay for maintenance and upkeep of the home.
How Equitable Property Division Differs From Community Property Rules
Business partners typically possess shared ownership interests in the assets of their company. If they dissolve their partnership, it is common to divide assets and liabilities between them. It is similar in divorce, meaning that neither spouse has an exclusive right or responsibility to any asset or debt accrued during the marriage. In states where community property division rules apply, all marital assets and debts are equally split, 50/50, between spouses in a divorce. In Pennsylvania and other equitable property states, the division of marital property must be fair but not necessarily equal.
A judge ruling on property division issues in an equitable property state determines how assets and debts should be split so that each spouse receives a fair portion of the overall value of the total assets and the amount of debt to be paid.
Establishing Separate Property Ownership
If spouses signed a prenuptial agreement before their wedding day, it is possible that certain assets or debt have legally been assigned separate ownership or liability to one spouse or the other. Certain issues, such as an inheritance that is designated for one spouse only, may also not be subject to property division in a divorce. Intended spouses can use a prenuptial contract to protect assets or avoid a liability, such as a future spouse’s college loan debt, in case a divorce takes place at some point; this is true whether the state in question has equitable or community property rules.
Equitable Property Rules Enable Asset Trading
In order for a Pennsylvania family court judge to determine a fair division of assets, spouses must fully disclose every asset or property they own. In some cases, it’s possible for spouses to agree to trade assets, meaning they agree to exchange the value of one asset for another. For instance, a car cannot be physically split in two; however, spouses might agree to exchange the value of a car for the value of another asset. Another example might be if a spouse wants to keep the marital home and is willing to exchange his or her value portion of a vacation property or other assets in order to do so. A divorce lawyer can make recommendations to a client regarding specific asset value issues.
Seek Clarification of State Laws Before Heading to Court
Divorce isn’t easy, but it’s often possible achieve a fair settlement and move on with life even if some issues are more complex and challenging to resolve than others. Regarding equitable property division versus community property division rules, it’s critical to understand the difference and to know which laws apply in a specific set of circumstances. If a person lacks knowledge about equitable division guidelines and heads to court assuming that he or she will automatically get an equal portion of assets in a divorce, discovering that this is not necessarily true may have a significant impact on his or her settlement and post-divorce financial status.
It’s always best to act alongside experienced legal representation in court because a family law attorney can protect a client’s rights and financial interests, especially during property division proceedings. If you’re concerned about property issues as you prepare for a Pennsylvania divorce, reach out to a Jenkintown divorce lawyer by calling (215) 886-1266.