Marital Property

What is marital property? Marital property in Pennsylvania is a legal term used to describe the property that a divorce court may divide in a process known as equitable distribution. In Pennsylvania, we say that the Divorce Code is “title-blind,” meaning that it does not matter whether property is titled in the name of the husband, the wife or both. Marital property is identified as all property acquired during the marriage, however it may be titled. There are a few specific exceptions, however. The most frequent exception is property acquired by gift or inheritance.

How does marital property differ from community property? Pennsylvania does not recognize the concept of community property, which is how married persons hold title to joint property in Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. In Pennsylvania, as in most states, property which is titled jointly in the names of spouses is held as “entireties” property. Entireties property is generally exempt from the claims of creditors of the individual spouses, and it passes to the surviving spouse upon the death of the other.

What is separate property? Property acquired prior to marriage, and property acquired by gift or inheritance, is designated as nonmarital property (or separate property). Although the divorce court has no jurisdiction to divide separate property, it is required to determine the increase or decrease in the value of separate property during the marriage. This increase in value is divided between the spouses in equitable distribution. Any decrease in value of separate property can be used to offset an increase in value of other separate property, but cannot be offset against the value of marital property.

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