When most people think of property, they think only of assets, but debts are also considered property for the purpose of a divorce settlement. In order to divide assets and debts between the spouses, a thorough listing and determination of status is needed. That status can be marital, non-marital, or a combination of the two.
If you are getting divorced and need to sell your house as part of the divorce process, it is important to keep your attorney informed. Oftentimes when you go to settlement, if you do not have an agreement in place, the proceeds will be split equally. As part of the divorce process, you can obtain a court order either through an agreement with the other spouse or through the court that preserves your proceeds until such time that an agreement on divorce is reached. In Pennsylvania, assets are distributed equitably, not equally. Usually the spouse who earns less money at the time of the divorce receives more than half the overall assets, although there are many factors that determine equitable distribution. If the parties can agree, it may be best to distribute equally that portion of the proceeds that are not in dispute and only hold the amount disputed in escrow or in joint names requiring two signatures. You should have this agreement or court order put in place prior to closing and if possible, prior to signing your agreement of sale.
When you get divorced in PA, the date of your separation is no later than the date that a divorce is filed. It can be earlier but the burden will upon the party seeking an earlier date to establish it with evidence should the other spouse contest it. The date of separation is an important date when it comes to determining what is an asset and what is a debt. Assets and debts accumulated up until the date are marital. This means if you file for divorce or separate you will want to know what the balances are on your debt at that time. It does not matter whose name the debt or asset is in. If your spouse has credit cards, even if you did not know about them during the marriage and they can produce statements showing a credit card balance on the date of separation, it gets included. If you think your retirement is your own, again you will be mistaken. Retirement assets up until the date of separation are marital assets even if they are only in one person's name. There are exceptions on some assets that are passive such as a house where the value is determined as of the date of distribution. Much money and time is spent in a divorce figuring out what the assets and debts are and what the balances are. It is a good idea to keep records, when you marry, when you separate and each month after you separate. It will save much time and much money to stay organized.
The putative spouse doctrine provides an equitable remedy where one or both spouses believed in good faith they were married and subsequently discovered the marriage wasn't valid. The spouse that is unaware of any impediment to the marriage is the putative spouse. The equitable remedy provided more or less mirrors the relief that would be available if the parties were divorcing from a valid marriage. The purpose of the doctrine is to protect those who have an honest belief that they are married from being denied the economic and/or status related benefits of marriage including potential property division and support.