I’m in the process of a divorce in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  My spouse and I are separated and I want to buy a townhouse in Newtown.  Can I buy it without having to worry about my spouse claiming ownership of it?

When you are separated and in the midst of a divorce, whether in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, or almost anywhere in the United States, you need to be mindful of any assets you acquire prior to a divorce decree being signed by a judge and the entry of an accompanying Order disposing of all marital property. 

While property acquired after separation, at least in Bucks County and all of Pennsylvania, is generally considered non-marital, it could be considered marital if the source of funds used to acquire the property existed prior to separation.  For example, if you are separated and you use funds to make a down payment on a condominium from a credit union account that accrued during the marriage, then that condominium would be considered marital property and subject to equitable distribution.  That means your spouse could have a claim to the condominium.  By using the tracing method a party is able to reveal the origination of the down payment.  Furthermore, earnings and losses on the investment may be considered marital and subject to equitable distribution. 

To safeguard a post separation acquisition from being considered marital property, it is best to use only funds earned after separation to make a post separation acquisition.