By Anna Ciardi
According to Pennsylvania property laws, the term that applies to the division of marital property in Pennsylvania is equitable distribution.
Pennsylvania Definition of Marital Property
Note that “marital property” means all property acquired by either party during the marriage in addition to the increase in value of any nonmarital property acquired prior to the marriage (or in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage) and the increase in value of any property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent during the marriage (or property acquired in exchange for such property).
So the court will look at much more than how the property is titled and who put funds toward acquiring the property.
For example, if you start an IRA during your marriage and contribute only your own earnings into that account, then it will still be considered marital property.
However, marital property generally does not include things such as:
a) property acquired prior to marriage;
b) property excluded by valid agreement of the parties entered into before, during or after the marriage;
c) property acquired by gift or inheritance;
d) property acquired after final separation;
e) certain Veterans’ benefits; and
f) a few less common things.
When someone files for divorce in Pennsylvania and includes a count for equitable distribution, initially the parties will usually attempt to negotiate a settlement for how to divide their marital property, including assets and debts.
However, if a settlement cannot be reached, the court will equitably divide, distribute, or assign the marital property between the parties without regard to marital misconduct in such percentages and in such manner as the court deems just after considering all relevant factors.
It is important to note that there is no starting point of a 50/50 split; instead the court will consider several factors when determining how to make this divide.
Also, the court may consider each marital asset or group of assets independently and apply a different percentage to each marital asset or group of assets if that will achieve a more equitable result.
Pennsylvania Property Division Factors
The Pennsylvania factors relevant to the equitable division of marital property include:
1) The length of the marriage.
2) Any prior marriage of either party.
3) The age, health, station, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties.
4) The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party.
5) The opportunity of each party for future acquisitions of capital assets and income.
6) The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits.
7) The contribution or dissipation of each party in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation or appreciation of the marital property, including the contribution of a party as homemaker.
8) The value of the property set apart to each party.
9) The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.
10) The economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property is to become effective.
10.1) The federal, state, and local tax ramifications associated with each asset to be divided, distributed or assigned, which ramifications need not be immediate and certain.
10.2) The expense of sale, transfer or liquidation associated with a particular asset, which expense need not be immediate and certain.
11) Whether the party will be serving as the custodian of any dependent minor children.
The court also has the power to impose a lien or charge upon property of a party as security for the payment of alimony or any other award for the other party.
The court may also choose to award, during the pendency of the action or otherwise, to one or both of the parties the right to reside in the marital residence, or to direct the continued maintenance and beneficiary designations of existing policies insuring the life or health of either party which were originally purchased during the marriage and owned by or within the effective control of either party.
Pennsylvania Divorce Lawyer
How to divide a marital estate in Pennsylvania can be a complicated process involving identifying and evaluating the marital property, and then determining an equitable distribution in light of all the factors listed above.
Cordell & Cordell has offices and family law attorneys located in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Radnor should you seek additional information or possible legal representation.