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How to divide assets in a Pennsylvania divorce

You've decided to divorce. You've told your kids, your parents, your friends. It's really happening.

But to move forward, you've got to look to the past and figure out how to divide the assets you've accumulated during your marriage. Here are some things you're going to have to split as you split up:

  1. Your Pennsylvania house: If neither one of you are in love with your home or have sentimental feelings for it, then sell it and divide the proceeds – provided you have equity. If you don't, you might have to sell it at a loss and decide who will pay off the remaining mortgage. If one of you wants to stay and can afford it, then get a new loan, pay off the mortgage and buy out your spouse. You will need to have an appraisal done to figure out the actual value of your house.
  2. Your car: If it's paid off, find out the book value of the car. If it's worth $3,000, then buy out your spouse for $1,500 if you want to keep it. Or, sell it and split the proceeds in half.
  3. Your household items and collectibles: You likely have accumulated furniture, cookware, dishes, electronics and such. You can do a tradeoff, such as, "I'll take the computer, you take the TV" to try to divide things fairly. Start with the items that mean the most to you. It won't be as easy with things of sentimental value or collectible value, such as an art collection. You might need the assistance of an appraiser again.
  4. Your retirement accounts: In the case of a 401(k), your spouse is entitled to half. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) can lay out how the account will be split. An IRA does not require a QDRO. Money in an IRA can be transferred to a new IRA for your spouse as part of the divorce agreement.
  5. Your portfolio, including your brokerage account: Start by listing your holdings by what you paid for them against their value today. You will need to take capital gains into consideration.

Finances in a divorce are confusing – and essential to get right. Your divorce attorney can offer advice or assemble a team that will help you come up with the most equitable solution.

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