In Pennsylvania, when a couple is divorcing, the legal term for dividing marital assets and marital debts is “equitable distribution”. Our courts divide marital property and debts based on the principles of equity, which means that it is in the discretion of the court to divide marital assets and marital debts as it deems fair. Equitable distribution does not mean that property and debts must be equally divided. The goal is to achieve a fair and equitable result.
Factors Considered In Equitable Distribution
Pennsylvania courts consider a number of factors when determining equitable distribution, including:
- the length of the marriage
- whether either spouse has been married previously
- each spouse’s age, health, education, amount of income, and sources of income (including disability, retirement, insurance or other benefits)
- each spouse’s vocational skills and ability to be employed
- the assets, debts, and needs of each spouse
- any contributions by one spouse to the other’s education, training, or earning ability (e.g., if one spouse provided financial support or cared for the couple’s children, so the other spouse could obtain an education)
- the future ability of each spouse to earn income and obtain assets
- each spouse’s contribution to the acquisition of marital assets or to preserving or increasing the value of marital assets (including contributions as a homemaker)
- any reduction in the value of marital assets cause by either spouse
- the amount/value of non-marital assets owned by each spouse
- the standard of living the couple enjoyed during the marriage
- the financial impact any proposed property division will have on each spouse (tax implications, and the expense of sale/transfer/liquidation of property), and
- whether either spouse will be the custodian of any dependent children under the age of 18.
In Pennsylvania, courts do not consider marital misconduct, such as adultery, when dividing property, unless the misconduct had a financial impact on marital property.
Our approach as divorce lawyers is to identify the client’s goals, describe realistic expectations, then prepare for and carefully monitor every stage of the proceedings. We insist on holding opposing counsel accountable so issues are resolved within a reasonable time.