If you’re in the middle of a divorce in Pennsylvania, The Pennsylvania Divorce Code provides for Equitable Distribution of Marital Property. While it’s great to know this, what does it mean and how does it affect you and your divorce case? Below are a few explanations to help make sense of it all.
What is Marital Property?
Marital property is a property acquired between the date of marriage and the date of final separation of husband and wife. Property is marital regardless of whether it is held in joint or individual names if acquired during this time period, unless it was acquired in exchange for pre-marital, gifted or inherited property (non-marital or separate property). The increase in value of non-marital property accruing during the marriage through final separation is also considered marital property.
Marital property is not dependent on legal title, and it should not be confused with “community property,” a concept that currently exists in nine states, but not Pennsylvania, and which presumes that each spouse has a one-half interest in property acquired during the marriage.
What is Equitable Distribution?
Equitable distribution is the property division between husband and wife upon divorce. Unlike community property, the division of marital property may or may not be equal and is based on the equitable distribution factors; in one case, property division may be 50-50 between the spouses, while in another it could be 45-55 or most any other division found to be fair by the Court.
Equitable distribution is a three-step process, requiring the (1) identification of the components of the marital estate, (2) the valuation of these assets, and finally, (3) the application of the factors set forth in the Divorce Code to determine the actual distribution between the parties. These factors may result in an uneven distribution, or, in appropriate cases, an award of the bulk, or all, of the marital estate to one party.
It’s important to note that items that are excluded from the marital estate include property acquired prior to marriage, excluded by agreement, or acquired by one party only by gift or inheritance. Other issues as to what is in the marital estate, and often more importantly, how and when it will be valued, are extremely important to the fair and equitable resolution of a divorce. These issues can become complex, especially where the marital estate includes closely held or family businesses.
Our firm has decades of experience valuing complex marital estates and working with expert accountants to accomplish this task. Whether you are the dependent spouse and are concerned with concealment of marital assets, or you are a business-owning spouse concerned with a fair valuation and distribution, we have the expertise to evaluate, litigate, and resolve complex property distribution issues.
If you have questions for us about equitable distribution of marital property, or to learn more about how we can assist you with your divorce, meet with our lawyers. Contact us online or call our law firm at 412-261-4040.