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Basics of property division

The division of assets is an important part of divorce in Pennsylvania with long-lasting financial consequences. Planning should govern how these assets may be divided amicably or in a court proceeding.

Under Pennsylvania law, all property that either spouses obtain during the marriage is marital property that may be divided regardless of the name of the spouse assigned to the property. There are exceptions for gifts and inheritances. Any increase in premarital property, inheritances or gifts during marriage also becomes marital property.

Household property such as curtains, furniture and appliances is treated as being jointly owned by the spouses regardless of who paid for these items. These assets may not be treated as marital property if a spouse can show that the household item was obtained before marriage or belonged to one spouse according to their spousal agreement.

Both spouses own the funds in any bank account acquired during marriage regardless of the name on the account. A spouse who withdraws all the funds out of an account, regardless of who deposited the funds into the account, may have to explain the withdrawal. A court may find that bank accounts are marital property and equally divide their funds regardless of the name on the accounts.

Most spouses own real estate such as the marital home as tenants of the entireties which prohibit one spouse from selling the property while they are married unless the other spouse agrees to the sale. During divorce, however, a court may rely on principles of equity to assure a fair division of this property. These include the spouses' contributions to the property obtained during their marriage.

If the property is not divided, the spouses assume ownership as tenants in common. Until the property is divided, each spouse may be on or in their jointly-owned property unless the court issues prohibiting this.

Couples can enter agreements that divide assets such as personal property and real estate that is legally enforceable by a court. An attorney may assist each spouse with negotiating these agreements or pursuing their rights to property in court.

Source: Pennsylvania Bar Association, "Divorce & separation," Accessed June 9, 2017

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Haller & Imbarlina, P.C.
20120 Route 19, Suite 208
Gigliotti Plaza
Cranberry Township, PA 16066

Phone: 724-935-0820
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