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.
Given the high cost of higher education, student loans carried by either or both spouses can weigh heavily on financial decisions and life choices. Often it can delay the purchase of a house or starting a family. This can cause a great deal of stress. It's not surprising that 13% of divorced people say student loans were the major cause of their divorce.
In certain circumstances, the court may give credit for separate property brought into the marriage. Generally, any credit to be received decreases with the length of the marriage. For example, Bucks County will reduce the credit by 5% a year such that there is no longer a credit after 20 years. A prime example of a situation where this rule would be applicable is the purchase of a marital home. Say Spouse A contributed $40,000 of their pre-marital money to the purchase of the house. If the parties separated after 5 years, the amount of Spouse A's individual contribution is reduced by 25%. Accordingly, Spouse A would argue that 75% of the $40,000 down payment, or $30,000, is their separate property and not subject to equitable distribution in the divorce. Chester County may apply a vanishing credit over the course of 10 years such that the credit vanishes in 10% increments.
There is often a misconception that assets and debts individual names will not be divided as part of a divorce action. This is simply not true. Section 3501 of the Divorce Code defines marital property as anything acquired by either party from the date of marriage up to the date of final separation. It also includes any increase in value on pre-marital assets. In the event of reconciliation after separation, the time frame for items acquired during the marriage and ultimately subject to distribution would change as the Divorce Code refers to final separation as the date to consider when determining the marital estate.