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Getting divorced. It’s never a pleasant experience. It’s also rarely an easy experience.
And why not? Well, in most instances—and certainly in Pennsylvania—it’s due to a legal process known as “equitable distribution,” which is essentially a fancy way of referring to the process of splitting marital assets and marital debts among the two parties who are involved in a PA divorce case.
In the best case scenario, of course, a divorcing husband and wife will amicably decide amongst themselves how to split up their assets: their home, their vehicles, and so on. In the very best case scenario, they’ll also be able to decide where the children will go, assuming they have children, and how their marital debts will be divided. But as we know, that scenario almost never happens. Instead, attorneys are typically consulted by each party, and ultimately the state decides exactly how the divorcing couple’s assets and liabilities will be distributed.
Should you find yourself in such a situation, you will likely be told early and often throughout the process that in Pennsylvania, equitable distribution doesn’t necessarily mean that equity will be split equally. Instead, it’s the job of the judge to decide what’s fair in each specific divorce proceeding. The judge will consider any number of different factors when making his or her decision, and the process of making that decision can often be very complicated.
If you’re going to be getting a divorce in Pennsylvania, what follows are a few important factors to keep in mind. You should also bear in mind that if your divorce is going to be even slightly complicated—if you and your spouse jointly own property or financial investments, for instance, or if you co-own a business—you’ll definitely want to speak with a competent and experienced PA divorce lawyer.
At Penglase & Benson, our Bucks County and Montgomery County property division attorneys will serve as your guide. Indeed, our attorneys have more than 65 years of combined experience working with individuals who are seeking a wide variety of legal needs.
You might be surprised to learn just how much the Pennsylvania legal system considers to be property in a marriage. Basically, if something has any exchangeable value or can be calculated to deduce your wealth, the law will consider it property during your divorce proceeding. Same goes for anything you own that generates income, such as a business, a rental property, an index fund, or even a 401k.
Property you only partially own, such as a house with a mortgage or a car you’re still paying off, will also be up for grabs during the divorce. So too will you and your spouse’s debts, which is where things can really get hairy. Even if your soon-to-be significant other has racked up a six-figure AmEx debt you knew nothing about, you could still legally find yourself on the hook for it. That’s just one reason to hire a divorce attorney who has handled cases like these many, many times in the past.
We’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but in Pennsylvania, it doesn’t much matter. That’s because judges in PA consider both the monetary and non-monetary contributions of each spouse.
Consider, for example, a family of four: Dad is an accomplished investment banker earning somewhere in the mid-six figures, while mom is a homemaker who raises the kids but has never earned a penny during the marriage. Mom’s work, while not financially remunerative, will probably be considered a significant contribution to the family’s wealth.
However, if you can prove that your non-working spouse didn’t contribute to the family unit in any way, you may not have to split nearly as much property.
Are any of the following possibilities weighing heavily on your mind? Give us a call, let our administrators schedule an appointment, and let us sweat the details.
The court considers many different when it attempts to fairly split divorce case property. So many in fact that we don’t have room to list them all here. The following, however, are a few of the most common considerations, both in Pennsylvania and most other states.
Divorce in Pennsylvania is complicated. Come talk to the team at Penglase & Benson, where our Pennsylvania lawyers believe in the importance of looking out for the best interests of both you and your children, while working toward a future that will be prosperous and beneficial. With our help, you will make it through this.