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Pennsylvania Marital Property Laws

All property acquired during a marriage becomes marital property. In Pennsylvania, marital property belongs to both spouses. Pennsylvania, like most states, is an equitable distribution state. During a divorce or legal separation, courts divide marital property fairly between spouses, but not always equally.

A few states, such as California and Louisiana, are community property states. In these states, courts divide marital property 50/50 during a divorce. States have their own rules about property division during divorce. Spouses should consult a family law attorney during a divorce or separation.

If a couple has a prenuptial agreement or other settlement agreement, the court will include that in the divorce decree. Otherwise, the court will divide the marital assets and debts according to Pennsylvania law.

See FindLaw's Divorce and Property section for more information.

Note: State laws are subject to change through the passage of new legislation, court rulings (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. FindLaw strives to provide the most current information available. You should consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) before making any legal decisions.

Marital Property vs. Separate Property

In Pennsylvania, marital property includes everything either spouse acquires during marriage. It also includes anything purchased with marital funds and appreciation of nonmarital property.

Marital property can include:

  • Wages and income earned during the marriage

  • Joint bank accounts and investment accounts

  • Retirement accounts and pension plans

  • Contributions to the marital estate, including non-monetary contributions as homemaker or childcare

  • High-value property such as real estate, even if titled in one spouse's name alone

  • Marital debts and liabilities

When making a marital property determination, Pennsylvania courts only consider property acquired between the marriage and the date of separation.

Separate property is all property a spouse acquired before the marriage. It may include any gifts or inheritances received during the marriage and anything excluded by a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement.

Separate property may become marital property if commingled with the marital estate. Commingling occurs when a separate asset benefits the marital property or spouses use a separate asset. When this happens, spouses must prove that an asset belongs to them through tracing.

Pennsylvania Marital Property Law

Under Pennsylvania equitable distribution law (23 Pa.C.S.A. § 3502), judges must consider all "relevant factors" when dividing marital property. An "equitable division of marital property" does not require a 50/50 split. Judges have the discretion to determine the value of the property and divide it according to factors in the statute. These include:

  • The length of the marriage

  • The age and health of the parties

  • Each party's present and future income

  • The education, employability, and earning power of each spouse

  • Contributions of each party to the marriage, including as a homemaker or childcare

  • Marital debt or liabilities

  • Tax consequences to each party

  • Child custody or child support obligations

  • Any other factor a court may consider to be proper

Marital misconduct (such as adultery or waste of property) does not directly affect property division. It will affect alimony awards. A judge may award one spouse the value of property taken from the marital estate by the other spouse's waste in compensation.

Get Legal Advice From a Pennsylvania Divorce Lawyer

Laypeople find the divorce process complicated. You need legal advice from someone who understands Pennsylvania divorce laws and the possible impact on your property. Contact an experienced divorce attorney in your area for answers.

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