According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, there were approximately 31,000 divorces and annulments in Pennsylvania in 2021. Divorce involves not only the dissolution of a marriage but also the division of assets that the couple acquired during the union. In Pennsylvania, the courts apply the principles of equitable distribution when dividing assets in a divorce.
The term “equitable” does not necessarily mean “equal” but instead implies fairness, and it is important to know how the courts make their determination.
The process of equitable distribution
In Pennsylvania, the process of dividing property involves identifying, valuing and distributing marital assets and debts.
Marital assets include properties and income acquired by either spouse during the marriage, with some exceptions. For example, inheritances, gifts to one spouse and property acquired after separation are typically considered separate property and are not subject to division.
To value assets, the court often relies on expert appraisals. These can be for real estate, personal property or business interests.
Factors affecting asset division
The court considers various factors when deciding how to divide assets equitably. These factors include the length of the marriage, the age and health of each spouse, the standard of living during the marriage and the income and earning potential of each spouse.
The court also considers the contribution of each spouse to the marriage, including non-financial contributions such as homemaking and child-rearing. Additionally, the court takes into account the economic circumstances of each spouse, including their ability to support themselves and any children.
While the process of dividing assets can be challenging, having a clear understanding of it can be essential to ensuring a fair and equitable outcome.