Equitable Distribution Part III: What is Equitable?

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By Lisa Marie Vari of Lisa Marie Vari & Associates, P.C. on Sunday, May 1, 2016.

Although many people think that equitable distribution means a 50/50 distribution of marital assets, which is not always the case. It may be best to view 50/50 as the starting point rather than the ending point in these cases. While many cases end up somewhere around 50/50, most cases in Pennsylvania end up somewhere around 45/55 or 40/60. Once you have identified the marital property that is subject to equitable distribution, you must consider who gets what. Obviously, it’s most favorable if both parties can agree to what each of them is entitled to; however, that is not always the case. In such cases, the court will turn to the factors listed in the domestic relations statute regarding equitable distribution:

(1)  The length of the marriage.

(2)  Any prior marriage of either party.

(3)  The age, health, station, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties.

(4)  The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party.

(5)  The opportunity of each party for future acquisitions of capital assets and income.

(6)  The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits.

(7)  The contribution or dissipation of each party in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation or appreciation of the marital property, including the contribution of a party as homemaker.

(8)  The value of the property set apart to each party.

(9)  The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.

(10)  The economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property is to become effective.

(10.1)  The Federal, State and local tax ramifications associated with each asset to be divided, distributed or assigned, which ramifications need not be immediate and certain.

(10.2)  The expense of sale, transfer or liquidation associated with a particular asset, which expense need not be immediate and certain.

(11)  Whether the party will be serving as the custodian of any dependent minor children.

Like much of Pennsylvania’s domestic relations code, on the surface, this section does not specifically say how a court is meant to consider the different facts, and courts will have to look to case law and/or facts to determine exactly what the distribution should be. There is no secret code to determine what the distribution should be, and it often requires the skilled argument of an attorney to reach the best result.


Often in courts in Allegheny County and other parts of Western Pennsylvania do not go so far as to decide which spouse is entitled to which piece of property, instead, the court will indicate what the percentage of distribution should be and then allow the parties and their attorneys to work out what assets each of them are entitled to based on their respective values. Only on a rare occasion will a court get involved in the nitty-gritty of divided individual assets, although there are times when parties disagree so significantly that a court must intercede.


If you are currently involved in a divorce involving equitable distribution and would like to speak to someone about how to get the best result possible, contact our Pittsburgh office today.