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.
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. It is important to be familiar with the policy in the county where you are pursuing a divorce. Another practice tip is to avoid mixing individual property with marital property. It will be very difficult to make an argument on the amount of individual property that should be credited to a party if it’s impossible to trace the source of the funds. An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate these issues.