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Separate, Not Equal: Equitable Distribution Facts You Should Know

Considering a divorce in Pennsylvania? This is not a community property state. There are guidelines you should be aware of for dividing marital assets with Pennsylvania’s equitable distribution law.

Before the practice of equitable distribution took effect, the basis of all property separation in a divorce was title driven. If the title was in one spouse’s name, the other spouse couldn’t claim ownership even though each member of the couple may have participated in paying for the property.

What Is Equitable?

With equitable distribution, property acquired by either member of the married couple gets considered as belonging to the couple no matter who holds the title. The point of this type of distribution is not to be equal, but to be equitable based on each family’s circumstances.

Here are some main points of equitable distribution involved in a Pennsylvania divorce. Each of the following influences the court’s decision regarding what is the equitable distribution of the divorcing couple’s assets:

Length Of Marriage

The length of the marriage is important in determining if and how much gained value in non-marital assets must be distributed to the other spouse. It is one of the chief facts that influence all of the other factors below.

Income Disparity

The court’s consideration of income disparity between spouses gets greater the longer amount of time the couple has been married. The longer that a couple has been married, the less time the lower-earning spouse has to catch up on earnings to secure a comfortable retirement. If one spouse took care of the family and the household while earning less money outside the home, those unpaid contributions to the family would be considered.

Increase In Value Of Non-Marital Assets

If an asset was acquired by one spouse before marriage, such as a company 401k, it is not exempt from equitable distribution. Its increase in value over time is likely to be taken into special consideration by the court when dividing assets.

Marital And Non-Marital Liabilities

Liabilities such as mortgages and credit card debt also enter the mix in regards to an equitable divorce settlement. It’s important to document the debts which the other spouse took on with a joint credit account. That information can be used by the court to create distribution.

In the end, the court’s determination of what is equitable distribution can be quite subjective, even though the basis is of the above factors.

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