Equitable Distribution of Property in Pennsylvania
You have questions - we have answers. Our attorneys are divorce lawyers who are well-versed in the complexities of divorce law. Our divorce attorneys regularly file for and handle contested divorces and uncontested divorces in Potter County, McKean County, Tioga County and Cameron County, Pennsylvania.
It starts this way. You grow apart. Things aren’t working out like you thought. You live with someone but you’re still alone. One day he says “we need to talk” and suddenly your world is ending.
The next thing you know, you’ve been served with papers. He wants you out of the house. You don’t know what to do, and the decisions you make now can affect you for the rest of your life.
Some of the most of the frequently asked questions about divorce in Pennsylvania relate to the equitable distribution of property: “What am I entitled to?” “Can he take everything?” "How do I live after he leaves?"
In Pennsylvania, divorces have three basic components 1) dissolving the marriage contract, 2) dividing property, and 3) support. Pennsylvania is not a 50/50 state. Pennsylvania law provides that the marital property will be “equitably divided.” Stated another way, the Judge will try to do what is fair. How in the world do Judges decide what is fair?
By statute 23 Pa. C.S. 3502 the Judge is to consider the following factors to determine how to slice up the marital asset pie:
(a) General rule.–Upon the request of either party in an action for divorce or annulment, the court shall equitably divide, distribute or assign, in kind or otherwise, 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. 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. Factors which are relevant to the equitable division of marital property include the following:
(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.
As you can imagine, with no guidance on how to apply these factors this is an area that breeds uncertainty and a rich area that allows for zealous advocacy during the divorce to ensure a fair division of assets. The key is to determine which factors favor your position and advocate forcefully for that factor. If, for example, you have a very low earning capacity because of a disability or lack of marketable skills, you can suggest to the court that a higher award is appropriate to balance the equities. There is no limit to the arguments that can be made by a good advocate.
The benefit of Pennsylvania’s law is that it gives the Judge broad discretion to do what is right. The downside is that it often makes it difficult for the parties to resolve their claim without judicial intervention.
For better or worse – now you know.
Our attorneys are experienced in handling the practical aspects of how to navigate through a divorce and keep your life together as well as the litigation and resources to handle complex asset and debt division. If you live in Potter County, McKean County, Tioga County or Cameron County, Pennsylvania, feel free to contact our office for advice on how to successfully handle a divorce.
***Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this site are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. No lawyer-client relationship exists until one of attorney attorneys meets with you and agrees to accept you as a client.
From offices in Coudersport, Potter County, Pennsylvania, Ross and Ross, LLC serves the personal injury, bankruptcy, social security disability, divorce and family law needs of Western, Northwestern, Central and North Central Pennsylvania including the communities of Coudersport, Galeton, Shinglehouse, West Branch, Smethport, Port Allegany, Bradford, Roulette and Wellsboro, as well as Potter County, McKean County, Tioga County, Bradford County and other areas of Western PA and Central PA.