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Equitable Distribution in PA: So what exactly are we dividing up?

Equitable Distribution in Pennsylvania: So what exactly are we dividing up? One of the first questions our new divorce clients ask is: "What property will my ex be able to claim in court?" What will you and your spouse be dividing up as you go through your divorce? Who gets the house? The stocks? The furniture? The motorcycles? The dog?

In a Pennsylvania divorce, only marital property is subject to being divvied up. That begs the question, what exactly is marital property?

Here are some examples:

1. John and Mary get married on July 1, 2003 in Pittsburgh. When they got married, Mary moved into John's house, which he bought on July 1, 2001. On July 1, 2013, John and Mary decide that they want to get a divorce. Mary tells John that she is going to take the house in the divorce. Can she really do this?

The answer is no - the house will not be subject to distribution in the divorce and Mary cannot claim it. John bought the house in 2001, which was before he and Mary got married. Therefore, it is not subject to distribution. However, Mary is entitled to share in the appreciation of the value of the home. That means that if, when they got married in 2003 the house was worth $50,000 and when they separated it was worth $100,000, the house increased in value by $50,000. Mary can claim a right to the increase in the value of the house or, in other words, she can claim a part of $50,000.

2. John and Mary get married on July 1, 2003 in Pittsburgh. They lived in an apartment together after they got married until July 1, 2005, when John decided to buy a house with all the money he has made since they were married. On July 1, 2013, John and Mary decide that they want to get a divorce. Mary tells John that she is going to take the house in the divorce. Can she really do this?

The answer is yes - Mary does have a claim to the house in the divorce. Even though John bought the house in his name only, he bought it after they got married. This means that the house is subject to distribution in the divorce. It does not matter that only John's name is on the deed, all that matters is when John bought the house.

1. John and Mary get married on July 1, 2003 in Pittsburgh. They lived in an apartment together after they got married until July 1, 2005, when John's grandfather moved out of his house and into a nursing home. John and Mary then decided to move into John's grandfather's house. John's grandfather still technically owns the house. On July 1, 2013, John and Mary decide that they want to get a divorce. Mary tells John that she is going to take the house in the divorce. Can she really do this?

The answer is no - the house belongs to John's grandfather, not to John or to Mary. The house is not marital property and will not be subject to distribution in the divorce.

Any property of any kind that you or your spouse acquire during the marriage is marital property and subject to Equitable Distribution. It does not matter how the property is titled, whether it's real property or personal property, whether one spouse bought it with their share of the joint checking account - all that matters is whether the property was acquired while you were married and before you were separated. Please contact our divorce attorneys at McMorrow Law, LLC at 724-940-0100 for a free 30 minute consultation.

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