Here’s a phrase anyone going through a divorce proceeding is likely to hear over and over:
It’s an important term to remember, as it’s something that affects many divorce cases. If you’re seeking legal options for proceeding with a divorce in Bucks County, here’s what equitable distribution means for you:
What is equitable distribution?
In Pennsylvania, like most states, people getting divorced can ask in their divorce complaints that the court divide marital assets using equitable distribution, meaning both parties get what they are entitled to take home.
A few states – including California, Texas and Nevada – follow what’s known as the “community property” rule, meaning a judge will simply divide assets or debts in half.
Pennsylvania’s equitable divorce statute says:
“Upon the request of either party in an action of divorce, the court shall equitably divide, distribute or assign, in kind or otherwise, the marital property between the parties without regard to marital misconduct in such percentages and in such manner as the court deems just after considering all relevant factors.”
This doesn’t necessarily mean a 50/50 split, but just that each spouse gets what they are legally entitled to receive.
Let’s say you and your spouse had $50,000 in a retirement account. The judge wouldn’t necessarily rule that both of you get $25,000. Instead, they would look at all the facts of the case.
What is marital property?
The term “marital property” refers to assets and income that accrue during the marriage: your home or business, retirement accounts, investments, furniture, cars,
It doesn’t matter if one person’s name is on the account or the title to a car: if was purchased or set up during the marriage, it’s marital property. Some assets might have a separate value, such as a retirement account that was set up prior to the marriage and grew during the marriage.
Couples getting divorced will also need to divide any debts that were incurred during their marriage: mortgages, loans, tax obligations and credit cards. Just as with property, a debt might be considered a marital debt even if it was incurred by only one spouse.
What factors determine equitable distribution?
The factors that help the court decide equitable distribution include:
- The length of the marriage
- Sources of income
- Amount of income
- Job skills and employability
- Whether one spouse has contributed to the other’s education or job training
- Whether either party had been married before
- Expenses accrued by selling or transferring marital property
- Retirement, pension, insurance and other benefits of both parties
- Whether each party can acquire assets and income
- How each party contributed to acquiring or preserving marital property
- The value of non-marital property
- Whether either spouse will need to care for minor children
To learn more about how to navigate the world of equitable distribution, contact the attorneys at Penglase and Benson. Our divorce attorneys in Bucks County are ready to work with you to help you though what is likely to be a painful chapter in your life, and to make sure you get everything you’ve worked for.