Understanding Equitable Distribution in Pennsylvania Divorce Proceedings

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Understanding Equitable Distribution in Pennsylvania Divorce Proceedings

The financial implications of a divorce are often times at the forefront of the parties’ minds.  In Pennsylvania, “equitable distribution” is the legal term for the process of dividing the marital estate during a divorce.  Fortunately for parties who are able to agree on how they would like to divide their marital estate, the law allows for binding and enforceable agreements to be incorporated into the divorce decree.  For parties who are unable to reach an agreement, the court will consider statutory factors to determine how to equitably divide the estate, and to define what is and what is not considered marital property.  Whether an agreement can be reached or not, parties to a divorce should understand what their marital estate consists of, and how a court may reasonably divide it. In this blog post, we will break down some of the basics of equitable distribution in Pennsylvania.

Understanding Equitable Distribution:

Equitable distribution does not necessarily mean equal distribution, but rather a fair distribution based on several statutory factors.  In Pennsylvania, with the exception of a few statutory exceptions, the law assumes that property or debt acquired during a marriage is marital property or debt and provides eleven factors as a guide for the court to fairly, or equitably, divide the estate between the two parties.  These factors include the length of the marriage and the age, health, and income of each spouse, among other factors.

Marital Property vs. Non-Marital Property:

It is essential to understand the difference between marital property and non-marital property when defining the marital estate. Marital property, with few exceptions, are assets acquired during the marriage, while non-marital property includes assets acquired before the marriage, inherited property, or property received as a gift. Non-marital property is not subject to equitable distribution in Pennsylvania, however, the increase in value of non-marital property during the marriage is subject to equitable distribution. Additionally, non-marital property can become marital property if it is commingled with marital property.

 Are Individually Titled Assets and Debts Marital?:

Even property that is titled in only one spouse’s name is considered marital property if it was acquired during the marriage.  Likewise, liabilities and debts, if acquired during the marriage, are marital regardless of whose name they are in.

The Importance of Legal Representation:

Divorce and equitable distribution proceedings are complicated and emotional. To protect your rights and ensure a fair distribution of your marital property, it is essential to have experienced legal representation. An experienced divorce attorney can help you navigate the legal system, and help you understand what you are entitled to and how a court may reasonably divide the estate if the parties cannot reach an agreement.  For parties who are able to reach an agreement, it is likewise in their best interest to understand what they are entitled to when negotiating a settlement.  Call today to speak to one of our experienced divorce attorneys to help protect your rights and ensure a fair distribution of your marital property.

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About the author

About Andrew Francos

Andrew graduated from Franklin and Marshall College, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Economics. During his time there, Andrew was a two-time letterman for Franklin and Marshall’s Division I wrestling program. After college, Andrew attended Widener University Commonwealth Law School, where he was a member of the Moot Court Honor Society. After graduating from Widener in May 2022, Andrew passed the Pennsylvania Bar Exam and accepted his current position at LaMonaca Law. Andrew brings with him a strong commitment to family values and looks forward to serving clients with the same level of zeal as he would expect his family to receive.