When you decide to get a divorce, one of the first things you need to do after selecting a knowledgeable attorney to assist you is to determine what items of value need to be distributed between yourself and your spouse. Some examples of assets are real estate, vehicles, financial accounts, investment accounts and retirement plans. Making a list of your assets is a good starting point.

Under Pennsylvania law, all assets acquired during marriage are considered marital assets regardless of how they are titled.  There are some narrow exceptions to that rule.  Even assets acquired prior to marriage can have some marital value, depending on the specific facts.  Therefore, it is important to determine when assets were acquired and may take some digging to document dates of purchase, values as of date of marriage, etc.

Once you determine what assets you need to divide, you may need to have certain items appraised such as real estate or vehicles. Real estate appraisers often work hand-in-hand with divorce attorneys to provide informed values based on market conditions. Kelley Blue Book is a good source for most vehicle values and is widely accepted by most attorneys and court officers (but not all – some counties require specific valuation sources and dates) as a point of reference.

The marital residence can be one of the most valuable assets to be negotiated in the divorce process. This can be from both an emotional and a financial standpoint. Retirement accounts are often valuable also. As stated above, even though a retirement account is titled only in one spouse’s name, it is considered a marital asset to the extent it was started, contributed to, or increased in value during the marriage. When necessary, experts such as actuaries work with attorneys to value retirement accounts and calculate the marital portion to be considered in the distribution.

The distribution of assets can be determined by you and your spouse, with help from your attorneys, and does not require court intervention.  If you are unable to agree on a distribution of assets, the alternative is to have the court assign as Divorce Hearing Officer.  That individual will encourage both spouses to reach an agreement if possible and conduct a hearing to make the decision if necessary.

If you live or work in the central Pennsylvania area, including Carlisle, Harrisburg, Hershey and surrounding communities and would like to discuss dividing assets during a divorce or any other family law, estate planning or administration issue, please contact our office today.