The court may give credit for individual property brought into the marriage depending on the circumstances. 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.
The rules on credit for individual or pre-marital property can vary county to county since it’s not a statute, but more or less a policy used by the respective Masters when looking at the marital estate in a divorce matter. Be careful with the commingling of individual property with marital property. It will be hard to make an argument on the amount of individual property that should be credited to a party if it’s hard to trace the source of the funds. If you encounter a situation in your divorce where it may be necessary to make a distinction between assets that are clearly marital versus those that you can trace back as being pre-marital and/or separate, you should be sure to consult with an attorney with experience in the valuation of these type of assets or risk all of the assets being addressed in equitable distribution and subject to division with your spouse.
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