Pennsylvania Family Law and Divorce
Lisa Marie Vari & Associates, P.C.

PA Divorce: handling property located in a community property state

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Your Western PA property distribution lawyers bring you their latest thoughts: 

In determining the distribution of marital assets and debts during equitable distribution in Beaver County, a PA family law attorney often has to deal with property in a Pennsylvania divorce that is located in another state. An interesting facet of property law in relation to equitable distribution involves states that have "Community Property" laws. Although PA is not one of these states, there are vast differences in couples' property ownership in different states based on whether the state follows community property laws or not.

There are currently ten states that follow community property laws, including: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Pennsylvania law takes into account many factors in determining whether property acquired during the marriage is "marital" or "non-marital." Much of the discussion in settlement negotiations or in a divorce trial in PA involves equitably distributing the marital property, after it has been properly classified.

In community property states, most property that is acquired during the marriage, excluding inheritances or gifts, is considered community property, or held jointly by both spouses as marital property. Pennsylvania has a similar concept: the tenancy by the entirety-which is a property concept in Pennsylvania that property deeded or granted to a married couple is presumed marital and the couple takes the property as tenants by the entirety. This presumption can be rebutted, however, and the property is not automatically held jointly and considered marital.

However, in a community property state, joint ownership is automatically presumed in absence of evidence to the contrary. The concept of community property in the ten U.S. states that recognize it is that couples make equal contributions to the creation of the family unit and the marriage, and the property should be considered part of the "community" of the family.

In a community property state, division of property upon divorce can be done  item-by-item or by splitting the value of the community items. In some states, like California, a 50/50 division of community property is required by statute. This is much different than equitable distribution of marital property in Pennsylvania, where the court can distribute the property in any way it sees fit and equitable based on the particular circumstances of the couple.

If you are facing a Pittsburgh divorce and have any questions about property division in Pennsylvania, contact our Allegheny County property division attorneys today. 

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