One of the biggest points of contention in a divorce can be division of the parties’ assets. If no prenuptial agreement has been signed then Pennsylvania law governs how assets are divided. Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state which means that if the case goes to trial, a judge will ensure that property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. That is important to remember when trying to negotiate a property agreement in an effort to avoid trial. The only property that is considered in the determination is marital property so the first step in the process is for the court to determine what property will be included. The court will then need to determine the value of the marital property before determining a fair distribution. The value is based on “fair market value.” The last step in the equitable distribution process is the actual division of property.
How does a judge decide what is a fair distribution of property? The court will look to the 11 factors set out in 23 Pa.C.S. Sec. 3502. Those factors are as follows:
– The length of the marriage
– Any prior marriage of either party
– The age, health, station, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability,
estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties
– The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the
– The opportunity of each party for future acquisitions of capital assets and income
– The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement,
insurance or other benefits
– The contribution or dissipation of each party in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation or appreciation of the marital property, including the contribution of a party as homemaker.
– The value of the property set apart to each party
– The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage
– The economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property is to become
– Whether the party will be serving as the custodian of any dependent minor children
Courts will not consider whether a party was at fault for the divorce in determining the distribution of property. Some of these factors have clear answers, but other factors are subjective and the court will need to hear arguments as to why a factor should be decided in one party’s favor. The court will use these factors to determine what percentage of the property each party is entitled to (example 60/40) and then distribute each item of property accordingly.
Division of property is complicated and having an experienced divorce lawyer represent you is the best way to protect your interests. If you’re considering filing a divorce in Berks County or you are already involved in a divorce and need a knowledge divorce attorney to help you, contact our Reading, PA family law attorneys at 610-372-5128 or email us at [email protected]