From personal belongings to financial assets, dividing shared property is often one of the biggest challenges that divorcing couples face.
When a divorce goes to court, a family law judge decides how to separate assets. However, rather than divide property equally, the court tries to distribute assets in a way that is fair to both spouses and in the best interest of their children. The legal term for this is “equitable distribution.”
1. Many factors can impact property division
There are several factors the court may consider when deciding what is equitable. In addition to the length of the marriage and the standard of living the couple held, relevant factors may include:
- Each spouse’s age, education, income and employability
- Monetary and non-monetary contributions that either spouse made to the family or shared estate
- Whether a spouse will have custody of minor children
2. Only marital assets are subject to division
In Pennsylvania, most assets and income that either party acquires while married becomes marital property, subject to equitable distribution during divorce. However, if kept separate from the marital estate, certain assets may be exempt from distribution, including personal gifts, inheritances and property acquired before the marriage.
3. Financial misconduct could impact distribution
The court may award a greater portion of martial assets to one spouse if the other has wasted, dissipated or tried to hide shared assets during the marriage or while preparing for divorce.
A court-ordered distribution of property is not the only option for divorcing couples. If both parties can agree to negotiate outside of court, they may be able to reach a fair settlement that better meets their individual needs and the needs of their children.