When a couple files for divorce in Pennsylvania, the assets and liabilities of the couple will be distributed equally. State 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 and retirement, and everything as shared ownership by all owners. The determination of assets and liabilities that qualify for equitable distribution is calculated from the date of marriage until the date on which the couple filed for divorce. All those assets and liabilities obtained during marriage shall be distributed equitably.
The Pittsburgh family 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 should be uneven, the PA family law judge can set its decision 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 or by mediation. With respect to the couple’s liabilities, they 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.
The process of dividing the assets and liabilities of a marriage during a divorce can be especially complicated when the couple is less likely to be in agreement on the division of assets and liabilities. If you have any questions regarding the equitable distribution of assets and liabilities you may call the Pittsburgh 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.