Community Property is a system of dividing property after a couple divorces. Community property is the minority rule in the U.S. and is only followed by nine states. Under this system, any property acquired during the marriage is called the community property, meaning that both spouses own the property together. Any property that one of the spouses bought prior to the marriage, or any property received as a gift is considered separate property and is not divided as part of the divorce.
In some community property states, the property is divided equally between the parties. This basically means that each spouse will walk away with 50% of the community property. Some jurisdictions use this half ownership as a hardline rule when splitting property. Other community property jurisdictions leave the decisions about property splitting in the discretion of the court. The difficult thing about community property states, is that all nine of them have different rules. No two states have exactly the same laws on property splitting.
This system of community property is very different from the system in Pennsylvania. Here, we have equitable distribution. The first major difference is that here, there is no assumption that all marital property should be split 50-50. Marital property here can be divided by settlement, or by Court Order. If the court decided, there are several statutory factors the court must consider when dividing the property. In Pennsylvania, a couple may alternatively split all of the property by themselves. They can then enter into an out of court settlement regarding the property. By taking this route, the couple has complete control over who gets what after the marriage is over.
Splitting property can be very difficult no matter what jurisdiction you live in, or what rules the state follows. For more information on property splitting in PA, or to speak to an experienced Pennsylvania equitable distribution attorney, please contact our office today to set up a consultation.