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DIVIDING PROPERTY IN A DIVORCE: SOMETIMES IT TAKES A SOLOMON TO DIVIDE ASSETS EQUITABLY

Property division in Pennsylvania divorces sometimes takes a Solomon-like approach in order to achieve a fair and equitable division of these assets during divorce.

Pennsylvania is an Equitable Distribution state. This does not necessarily mean an equal, or 50-50% sharing of assets, in every case. The word “equitable” in the above phrase means “fair”, not “equal”. Therefore, depending upon each individual case, the court will fashion a distribution formula that attempts to reflect the reality of the economics in that particular divorce.

The Pennsylvania Divorce Code lists factors, which the Court must consider, in order to apportion the assets, as well as the debts, in a particular case. Chief among these factors are:

  1. Length of the marriage;
  2. The relative earnings or earning capacity of the parties;
  3. The health of the parties;
  4. Whether a party served as a caretaker of the party’s children before separation; and
  5. Whether a party supported the other party through school, college, etc. thereby putting the other party in a better position to earn after divorce.

There are other factors too. The Court seeks to divide “marital assets” and “marital debts” only. Marital assets and debts are defined as assets and debts accumulated during the marriage as well as the increase in value of any pre-marital asset of either party (of course, a Pre-Marital Agreement can eliminate including the increase in value of pre-marital assets; but without a pre-marital agreement, the increase in value of these pre-marital assets will be included as marital assets).

Assets include, but are not limited to, homes, cars, contents of one’s home, bank and brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, jewelry, and the like. Debts include mortgages, credit card balances, personal loans, judgments, liens, etc. A party who makes post-separation payment of marital obligations  may be given credit for these payments, depending upon which debt is paid. Speak with your lawyer before making any such payments.

It is safe to say that Divorce is not like fine wine: it doesn’t get better with age. If the parties have been separated for many years, it becomes more difficult to obtain statements of value, of both assets and liabilities, from the sources (i.e., mortgage statements, credit card statements, bank and brokerage statements, etc.). The fact is that these entities only keep these statements for a number of years and then they too destroy them. It isn’t uncommon to hear that parties have been separated for ten, fifteen or twenty or more years and now want to be divorced. You have done yourself not favor by waiting. When you are certain you are ready to move forward and obtain your Divorce Decree, contact us. We can help.

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