Splitting up a marriage comes with the overwhelming and contentious task of also splitting all your assets. Everything from financial accounts to collectible items must be on the table. Professional valuators help with determining the worth of all your property to help determine a fair division.

In Pennsylvania, a fair division does not mean an equal one. Instead, it means that each party will receive what is fair for each’s circumstance, known as equitable distribution. A major factor in this process is how much nonmarital assets each spouse owns. This property is not eligible for division and affects how much marital property you will receive, so it is important to understand the difference between the two.

What is nonmarital property?

Nonmarital property is anything you have acquired before the marriage. For example, you may already own a car under just your name or run a family business. Other examples include inheritances and gifts, including ones you receive during the marriage. Settlement payments are also separate if they are from a legal case before the marriage. In some instances, Pennsylvania states that any increase in value that has occurred during the marriage, such as business profits, also belongs to your ex.

What is marital property?

Marital property consists of all that you have obtained during the marriage. It does not have to be under both of your names to qualify. Work benefits are also subject to division, though retirement accounts can be challenging to distribute. Both parties are accountable for paying off debt accrued during the marriage, as well.

In addition, any separate assets that you comingled with marital ones become marital property. It is best to keep them separate and maintain thorough records to make distinguishing marital from nonmarital assets easy and to eliminate conflict.

If you two made a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that addressed property division, then the process will follow the terms of the document instead.