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A guide to equitable distribution in Pennsylvania

If you are divorcing in Pennsylvania, one of the most important things you’ll have to do is divide your marital assets. You can do this by yourselves, or the court will decide for you; however, one denominator remains the same regardless of the route you take: The split must be fair.

Understanding equitable distribution

Upon divorce, Pennsylvania courts divide marital assets equitably or rather fairly under the circumstances. In other words, the assets are not necessarily split evenly between both spouses but rather in a way that is just.

So, basically, you might get 30% and your spouse 70%, or you could get 90% while your spouse gets 10%. Sometimes, even a 50-50 split might be fair, depending on your marriage.

Marital properties and debts

In Pennsylvania, all property acquired during the marriage is considered a marital asset, regardless of whose name is on the title. This includes real estate, savings accounts, retirement accounts, furniture, vehicles and more. Even if only one spouse worked while the other stayed at home, any property purchased during the marriage would still be jointly owned. Likewise, the court will also consider any debts acquired during the marriage to be marital debt, even if only one spouse’s name is on the loan agreement.

Prenuptial agreements role in a property division

If you and your spouse signed a prenuptial agreement before getting married, the court would likely honor it. However, according to family law, the court does reserve the right to overturn a prenuptial agreement if it finds that it is not fair under the circumstances. For example, suppose one spouse waived their right to spousal support in the prenuptial agreement and later became disabled during the marriage. In that case, the court could overturn the waiver and award spousal support.

If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to divide your assets, the court will step in, and you’ll have what is known as a contested divorce. When making this decision, the judge would consider factors such as, but not limited to: each spouse’s earning capacity, health, age, length of the marriage and the standard of living during the marriage.

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