People getting divorced have a tendency to think of certain things as just belonging solely and exclusively to just themselves and that their spouses have no right to claim those things or any part of them. Perhaps it is natural to think that if one earned something one’s own self, that something does not have to be thrown into the pot and shared in a divorce.
Under Pennsylvania law, things which are determined to be marital assets are subject to an economically fair sharing between the parties to the divorce. In general, anything of value coming into one spouse’s possession during the marriage (and, typically, before separation) is a marital asset. That includes the fruits of both spouses labors and retirement accounts certainly qualify.
Consider this situation: A couple marries, has a few kids and after 30 years or so, one or both of them would much prefer not to be married to the other anymore. During the entire marriage, one spouse worked and provided income (and built up a retirement account) and the other stayed home, raised the children and minded the home. Clearly, going forward, the spouse who stayed home provided valuable services to the marriage but is now approaching 60 years of age and has no job skills. If this couple splits up, the working spouse could retire eventually and have an income. Should the other go on welfare? That is where our law steps in and does what it can to equalize the economic future of both parties. Like it or not, it is the fair thing to do.