In a Pennsylvania divorce, the legal term for dividing marital assets and debts is equitable distribution. When an agreement cannot be reached by both parties, the courts intervene to divide marital property and debts based “equitable distribution” or what the court sees as a fair distribution. Importantly, equitable distribution does not necessarily mean that and debts will be divided equally, but will be divided fairly the judge’s discretion.
Courts take into consideration many variables during this process, including the employability, age, and health of both parties, the length of the marriage, previous marriages, prenuptial agreements, child custody, and tax implications. Marital misconduct and fault, while relevant in other areas of the divorce, are not taken into consideration during equitable distribution.
Divorce lawyers and their clients often need considerable documentation to determine the value of assets and debts accumulated during the marriage, as well as each spouse’s income. For equitable distribution to be achieved, a detailed assessment and inventory of all marital assets must be conducted by the spouse and their divorce lawyer. The most frequently divided assets in a divorce are homes and their furnishings, vehicles, properties or businesses owned by both parties, jewelry, art, and retirement funds such as 401K’s or pensions. The equitable distribution process can be complex, particularly for couples that have acquired significant assets or debts during the marriage. Below are some examples illustrating what is considered marital property by the court, and what is not considered martial property.
MARITAL PROPERTY EXAMPLES
- All purchases made during the marriage, regardless of whose name it is in or who made the purchase. This includes homes, vehicles, and other tangible assets.
- The increase in value of non-marital property owned prior to the marriage, or acquired by gift or inheritance, until the date of final separation. For example, if one spouse enters the marriage with a vacation home, the increase in value of that home from the beginning of the marriage until the final separation date.
NON-MARITAL PROPERTY EXAMPLES
In Pennsylvania, a dissolution of a marriage can be accomplished by one of three ways:
- Property acquired before the marriage
- Inheritance or gifts
- Property excluded by prenuptial or other agreement
- Property acquired after the final separation date, unless used as an exchange for other marital property
- Awards or settlement payments for a cause of action before the marriage or after the final separation
As illustrated above, marital property division can be a complex process. The marital debt distribution process follows a similar logic to asset distribution. It does not matter whose name is on a marital debt, as long as it was acquired by either spouse after the marriage began but prior to the separation. Debts that are often accumulated during a marriage are mortgages and home equity loans, car loans, credit card bills, and taxes.
Litigation sometimes becomes the necessary route for equitable distribution, when negotiation simply cannot resolve matters. It is absolutely essential to have an experienced, knowledgeable, and compassionate divorce lawyer represent you during equitable distribution. Your financial future can be greatly impacted during a divorce, and it is imperative that your contributions to the marriage are fairly represented.
With over two (2) decades of divorce litigation experience in prosecuting and defending all aspects of divorce in Delaware County, Chester County, Montgomery County and Bucks County Pennsylvania, McIntosh Lawyers, PC is poised to aggressively represent your interests in your divorce and equitable distribution.