Equitable Distribution

What to be aware of as you divide your marital estate:

  • Complete Discovery and Identification of the Marital Estate
  • Appraisals of Property
  • Valuations of Businesses
  • Property Settlement Agreements
  • Court Ordered Equitable Distribution of Marital Property

As noted in Pennsylvania Divorce Code Annotated 2011 Edition:

The division of marital property in Pennsylvania is defined in section 3502(a) of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code. There are 11 factors set forth to determine the equitable division of martial property.

  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 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, including Federal, State and local tax ramifications, at the time the division of property is to become effective;
  11. Whether the party will be serving as the custodian of any dependant minor children.

Pennsylvania is not a community property state where division of marital property is on a 50/50 basis; rather, in Pennsylvania a court is authorized by statute to equitably divide, distribute, or assign, marital property between the parties without regard to marital misconduct in such percentages as the court deems just after considering the above referenced relevant factors.

The Pennsylvania Divorce Code establishes a presumption that all property acquired from the date of marriage to the date of final separation is marital property except that which is defined as non-marital property as defined in Title 23 Pa. C.S. § 3501(a)1-8

  1. Property acquired prior to marriage or property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage.
  2. Property excluded by valid agreement of the parties entered into before, during or after the marriage.
  3. Property acquired by gift, except between spouses, bequest, devise or descent or property acquired in exchange for marital assets.
  4. Property acquired after final separation until the date of divorce, except for property acquired in exchange for marital assets.
  5. Property which a party has sold, granted, conveyed or otherwise disposed of in good faith and for value prior to the date of final separation.
  6. Veterans’ benefits exempt from attachment, levy or seizure pursuant to the act of September 2, 1958 (Public Law 85-857, 72 Stat. 1229), as amended, except for those benefits received by a veteran where the veteran has waived a portion of his military retirement pay in order to receive veterans’ compensation.
  7. Property to the extent to which the property has been mortgaged or otherwise encumbered in good faith for value prior to the date of final separation.
  8. Any payment received as a result of an award or settlement for any cause of action or claim which accrued prior to the marriage or after the date of final separation regardless of when the payment was received.

It is crucial that the value of the marital estate be determined. The use of discovery includes the propoundment of interrogatories, document exchange, valuation of businesses, retirement benefits, pensions, etc. all toward the goal of full financial disclosure and ultimately an equitable devision of the marital estate.

A basic checklist of identifying marital property includes the following:

Annuities Art objects Attorney's contingent fees
Automobiles Bank accounts Certificates of deposit
Contents of safe deposit boxes Corporations Enhanced values of gifts, inheritances, and exchanged property for premarital assets
Furniture Goodwill of a business Homes
Jewelry Jointly-owned property Life insurance
Litigation awards Lottery winnings Money (cash and lent to others)
Mortgages Partnerships Pension plans
Personal injury claims Personal property Professional practices
Profit-sharing plans Real property Retirement benefits
Separate property Severance pay Sole proprietorships
Stocks, bonds, securities and options Trusts Worker's compensation claims