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How to fairly divide property during a divorce

Splitting up is not an easy process. It is even more complex when you and your soon-to-be ex were married for a long time and have considerable assets. Even though you do not want to be together, you do want to keep your divorce as amicable as possible. That includes dividing your property in a way that is fair to both of you. Here is what you need to know about dividing property in Pennsylvania.

Equitable distribution

In Pennsylvania, property is divided by equitable distribution in a divorce. That means property is divided fairly, though not necessarily half and half. This applies to all marital property, which are assets acquired during your marriage. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Inherited or gifted items are not usually considered marital property.

Account for all your marital property

Your first step should be making a list of all your marital property. Even if an asset is titled in one partner’s name, it is a marital asset if bought during the marriage. Separate property that gained equity during the marriage might also be subject to division. For example, a house you purchased before the marriage has increased in value. The house’s equity might be subject to division.

You and your former spouse can work together to create a list of assets or come up with a list separately. Then you must decide how to split these assets. You will want to know the value of all your assets before you agree on division.

Figure out the values of all assets

The monetary values may vary depending on the asset. A $100,000 savings account is valued differently than a $100,000 401k. If you are unsure how to value an item, you may want to reach out to a financial professional.

To determine a home’s value, you can consult Redfin.com or Zillow.com. However, if one of you is keeping a home, you will need to remove the other partner’s name from the mortgage by refinancing. During refinancing, you must get the home appraised. A home appraisal is much more accurate than consulting a website.

To determine vehicle values, you can check the Kelly Blue Book. With a large art collection, you may need to consult an art appraiser for an accurate valuation. Knowing everything’s value will make dividing assets equitably much easier.

Debt must also be divided

During equitable distribution, you must also divide your marital debts. Debts in both of your names are the responsibility of both parties. In other words, your creditors can go after either of you if these are not paid. You must decide how to divide these fairly. If a debt is in only one former spouse’s name, that spouse will usually take responsibility for paying it.

If you and your former partner can agree on property division, you must create a property settlement agreement to submit to the court. If you and your ex cannot agree, you will likely want to consult a family law attorney. You may still be able to divide your property through mediation, or you may need to take your case to court.

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