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What you need to know about equitable distribution

Even if you were only married a short time, splitting your life from your spouse's life is hard. You share a home, money, possibly children and a long list of assets from retirement funds to teaspoons. Making decisions about who gets the sports car and who gets the washing machine can lead to serious arguments. 

Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state

In Pennsylvania, if you cannot settle your divorce on your own, the court will divide your assets through equitable distribution. Unlike states with community property, assets will not necessarily be divided evenly. It is up to the court to decide exactly how you and your former spouses' assets will be split.

The court considers up to 11 factors when it makes a decision about property division. These factors include:

  • How long your marriage lasted
  • Any prior marriages
  • Age, health, current income and potential to earn
  • Any contributions toward education or other earning potential made by one spouse to another
  • All income sources, including stocks and retirement funds
  • Assets owned by each spouse
  • Contributions made to the marital home
  • The standard of living both spouses are accustomed to
  • Tax consequences of any property division
  • Whether one spouse will be the custodian of the children

Types of property to be divided

Property division will also depend on the type of property. Separate property is property that you owned before you were married. This is generally not included in equitable distribution, so it remains that spouse's property. However, if the separate property you owned increased in value during the marriage, this equity you gained may be subject to equitable distribution. Marital property is property that you acquired after your marriage, and this will be divided during equitable distribution.

Some other factors could affect the distribution

Normally, what one spouse spends his or her money on during the marriage is not factored into the court's decision while dividing property. They won't give you back the money your husband spent on his new boat, or the cash your wife spent on her new car. However, if the spending is significant and related to an extramarital affair, the court may intervene and award the other spouse a larger part of the estate. It all depends on the unique circumstances of each case, and how the court chooses to interpret the evidence presented.

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