The most contentious part of divorce proceedings is the division of property. In the event that you file for divorce, you will want to know what property is part of the marital assets and what will remain exclusively yours.

Courts in Pennsylvania attempt to divide the marital assets in your divorce as fairly as possible, since it is an “equitable distribution” state.

How do separate property and marital property differ?

“Separate” or non-marital property includes assets and liabilities you acquired before your marriage. Property gifted or bequeathed to you during your marriage also counts as property that only you own. Additionally, property you purchased using funds you had before your marriage is separate property.

If you and your spouse executed premarital or postnuptial agreements, the documents might already exclude certain property from the marital estate. Any income you earned during your marriage is separate property unless you treated it as a marital asset by commingling the funds, funding family vacations with your income or paying for a mortgage together.

In your divorce proceedings, your separate property will remain with you as the sole owner.

When is it not equitable to return everything?

A court in an equitable distribution state will distribute the property in a fair manner, not necessarily in an equal split. Factors that help a judge decide how to divide the marital state include the duration of the marriage, the health of each spouse, tax consequences of property division and the income of each spouse.

A judge might find that even if it is separate property, it is not equitable to return everything that belongs to you. For example, if you own several vehicles and your ex has primary custody of your minor child, the court may grant your former spouse one of the cars so he or she can properly care for the child.