One of the main benefits of marriage is the ability for partners to pool their resources. Combined, they have far more assets at their disposal than they would have individually. This, however, means that they are comingling their assets together.
When they divorce, this comingling can create an enormous issue for them: How do two people who may not be on friendly terms divide the marital assets between them? Given how complex and emotional this can be, states have provisions that guide judges and attorneys in distributing those belongings. Pennsylvania family law follows the concept of equitable distribution.
Equitable distribution is where the court decides on a way to distribute the assets in a fair manner. Fair does not mean an even fifty-fifty split. Rather, the court weighs the evidence and testimony to decide on a way that divides the marital property such that fairness and justice are met. The way that evidence and testimony is presented can make a significant impact in that decision. For this reason, hiring an attorney to represent you in your divorce is paramount.
As an attorney specialized in Pennsylvania family law, Lauren D’Alessandro understands the various aspects of divorce and the negotiating tactics necessary to represent a party when the time comes to dividing their assets. Lauren has negotiated numerous family law orders and will use that experience to assist you. Contact her to schedule an appointment and take the first step towards concluding your divorce.
The first step in the equitable distribution process is determining which assets are marital assets and which are non-marital assets. Excluding any prenuptial agreements that would indicate otherwise, property acquired during the marriage up to the date of separation — as well as the increase or decrease in value of assets from before the marriage — are considered marital assets. Meanwhile, non-marital assets include, but are not limited to, property that is acquired before the marriage, gifts and inheritances received during the marriage given by someone other than the spouse, and property acquired post-separation.
The second step in the equitable distribution process is determining the value of the marital assets. Unlike with identifying marital assets, the property is usually valued at the date of trial or distribution, not the date of separation. Should a spouse dissipate assets prior to trial or distribution, trial courts are permitted to select a date that serves justice.
Once a date is selected, the court must decide on how to value the property. Aside from a few circumstances, Pennsylvania divorce code does not provide for a method to use in making this valuation. As such, the trial court may, but is not required to, consider estimates, inventories, records of purchase price, and appraisals provided by the parties. The calculations do include encumbrances, such as mortgages.
The final step in the equitable distribution process is to decide how to equitably distribute the property. As mentioned earlier, Pennsylvania family law does not require a fifty-fifty split. Instead, in Pennsylvania trial courts are provided with certain factors to use in equitable distribution cases. Those factors include the following:
Masters and judges vary on how they apply these factors, so hiring an attorney to help with your equitable distribution case is crucial.
Regardless of the area of family law you are litigating, hiring an attorney experienced and specialized in family law is crucial. Attorney Lauren D’Alessandro represents clients in Bucks County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. Her office is located in Newtown and she invites you to contact her to schedule a consultation. You can contact her here. She looks forward to hearing from you!