In a Divorce, What is “Separate Property”?
Pennsylvania is what is known as a equitable distribution state with respect to the division of marital debts and assets. Essentially, that means that the court will attempt to allocate assets and liabilities based on what it determines to be fair—although it’s important to understand that “fair” does not necessarily mean “equal.” If at all possible, it’s always best for the parties to mutually agree on the distribution of property and debt. If, however, there has been fraud or misrepresentation, duress or undue influence, it may not be possible for the parties to resolve property issues without the intervention of the court.
If the court has to get involved, the judge will typically start by determining whether an asset is marital property, subject to equitable distribution, or whether it is “separate” property, to be returned to the party who brought it into the marriage. Separate property customarily includes:
- All assets acquired (fully paid off) before the marriage
- Any property obtained after separation (unless obtained with marital assets)
- Any property identified as separate property in a valid prenuptial agreement
- All inheritances or gifts received during the marriage
Though property obtained before the date of the marriage is considered separate property, any increase in the value of that property during the marriage is a marital asset. For example, real estate brought into the marriage (fully paid for before the marriage) is a separate asset to be returned to the party who owned it at the time of the marriage. Any appreciation in the value of the real property, though, is subject to equitable distribution. In addition, if you purchase a marital asset (car, home, household items) during the marriage, even with funds obtained before the marriage, it can be considered marital property, subject to equitable distribution.
At the office of Joanne E. Kleiner & Associates, we have more than 25 years of family law experience. We’ll help you stay focused on what matters. To schedule an appointment with an experienced Pennsylvania divorce attorney, contact our office online or call us at 215-886-1266.