When a couple decides to end a marriage there are many factors to consider. While many of these considerations are emotional, there are others that are practical or legal. One of the biggest considerations a couple must address is deciding who gets what. In Pennsylvania this term for dividing material assets and debts is called “equitable distribution.” Our state is considered an equitable distribution state, meaning that property, assets, and debts are divided based on many factors, which we’ll explain below. To be clear, it does not mean that assets and debts are divided 50/50; however, the goal is to achieve a fair distribution of property.
For the purpose of a divorce, marital property and assets can include real estate property, automobiles, businesses, furniture, jewelry, artwork, 401ks, retirement and investments. Any of these items that are purchased during the marriage or an increase in value of property owned at the time of marriage will be considered marital property, even if they were only purchased under one person’s name. This means both parties have equal rights to all assets acquired during the marriage. The same rights are assigned to debt as well. This means that even if a credit card was issued in one spouse’s name, both parties are responsible for the debt.
Items that can be excluded from equitable distribution include property or assets defined in a prenuptial agreement as well as assets that were owned by one party prior to the marriage except in their increase in value. Additionally, gifts or inheritances received by one individual during the marriage are excluded except for increases in value.
It’s important to note that fault is not a factor of equitable distribution. However the following items may be considered:
- How long the couple was married
- If either person was previously married
- The age, health, and income of each individual
- Opportunity of each party to acquire future assets and income
- Amount of assets each individual has at the time the divorce is to become effective
- Prenuptial agreements
- Custody of children
- If one individual helped advance the other’s career and income
- The standard of living the couple had while married
- Economic circumstances at time the division of property became effective
- Tax implications and cost of sale of any asset
Because the laws can be complicated to understand, it’s important to hire an attorney who completely understands how to ensure that you receive an equitable distribution of marital property. If you live in the Southeastern PA region and are looking for an attorney who will always fight for your best interests, call the Law Offices of Jack A. Rounick today.