In the state of Pennsylvania when a couple decides to file for divorce the assets and liabilities of the couple will be distributed equally between them. The assets and liabilities that qualify for equitable distribution is determined from the date of marriage until the date the couple filed for divorce. All those assets and liabilities obtained during the marriage shall be distributed equitably.
Pennsylvania law requires equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities which include assets and liabilities obtained during the marriage, a value that has improved during the marriage of assets acquired before the marriage, gifts from one spouse to another, all benefits obtained during marriage, retirement accounts, and everything that has been shared by the couple during the marriage.
The Pittsburgh family law court must always begin with the presumption that assets and liabilities should be distributed equally, but can distribute unevenly if there is justification for doing so. To decide whether the distribution of assets and liabilities should be uneven, the PA family law judge can make its determination based on the contribution of the spouses to the marriage, including, but not limited to, education of children and services like home maintenance, the economic circumstances of the spouses, and the duration of the marriage. However, the presumption of equal distribution of assets and liabilities is very difficult to overcome. Uneven distributions are exceptions to the rule.
The decision on how to divide the property can be decided by the couple, during mediation, or by the court. With respect to the couple's liabilities, the court will divide them equally and then assign specific payments of liabilities to each spouse. Pennsylvania alimony is decided separate from the decision of the equitable distribution of assets and liabilities. After deciding whether the distribution of the assets must be equal or unequal the court can decide whether there is a need to be made alimony payments to a spouse. Use of alimony payments can balance an inequality that could be caused by the distribution of marital assets and liabilities. The court may take into account assets that were obtained out of wedlock in deciding the alimony payments to a spouse, but the assets obtained outside of marriage are not subject to the same distribution in a divorce.
If you have any questions regarding the equitable distribution of assets and liabilities you may call the Western PA equitable distribution office of Lisa Marie Vari & Associates to make an appointment to speak with an attorney. Call us today with any family law questions you may have.