When our divorce clients have questions about the equitable distribution process – or the division of marital assets and apportionment of marital debts – they often assume that their estate will be divided exactly in half. This is because many spouses going through a divorce in Pennsylvania believe that the standard under PA law is to divide a couple’s marital estate exactly in half or 50/50. While in some cases this is true, this is not the standard across the board. Our blog today debunks this myth and discusses the factors that a Pennsylvania Court will consider during the equitable distribution process.
During a divorce, the equitable distribution process involves a division of the couple’s property. The first step in this process is to determine what is included in the “marital estate.” Next, the couple may attempt to divide their property according to an agreement called a marriage settlement agreement. The couple can also mediate their equitable distribution issues and resolve them via a consented to, or agreed upon, property division agreement. If the parties are unable to agree upon their equitable distribution issues, often a hearing or trial will be necessary.
Judges and Hearing Officers in Pennsylvania must consider multiple factors in deciding how to divide up the estate. Given these multiple factors and how each may apply differently to each individual couple, it is a myth to state that every divorce in Pennsylvania uses the 50/50 division as the standard. To the contrary, Judges must consider many factors, some of which include: the length of the marriage, the age and employability of each spouse, the contribution of each spouse to the education/earning of the other spouse during the marriage, the value of the property set apart to each party, and the economic circumstances of the parties at the time of asset division. This is just part of the list of factors to be considered, but Courts must consider the facts and circumstances in each separate matter in determining how to divide the parties’ estate in conjunction with each relevant factor from the divorce code.
Remember – the 50/50 myth is just that, a myth. It does not apply in every case and is always based upon the circumstances of the parties.