Divorce Practice Areas
What is Equitable Distribution?
Let's start by clarifying the meaning of equitable distribution. It governs the allocation of property between spouses in a divorce, but not all states embrace equitable distribution. Pennsylvania embraces the concept, however. Equitable division of assets attempts to achieve a fair allocation of property based on guidelines established by each state. So it's best to consult with a lawyer for divorce near you to make sure you receive a fair share of property distribution.
What Constitutes Marital Property for Equitable Distribution of Assets?
Marital property includes all property acquired during the marriage, regardless of who owns the title. For example, one spouse's gifts may be considered marital property if purchased with marital funds. The list multiplies and covers:
- Increases in property value
- Savings accounts,
- 401k plans
- Tax obligations
- Ownership in businesses
In addition, Pennsylvania law considers liabilities as a marital asset for equitable division. So courts deem credit cards, mortgages, loans, and other liabilities as marital assets.
Exceptions to the above include property acquired before the marriage. It also involves property acquired in exchange for property acquired before the marriage. Gifted property is excluded as well, except gifts between spouses or by bequest, devise, or descent.
How Pennsylvania Applies Equitable Distribution
Pennsylvania law divides marital assets as close to 50/50 as possible. It considers a host of factors when making the determination:
- The length of the marriage
- A prior marriage by either party
- The age, health, income, vocational skills, employability, estate, and liabilities of each party
- Contributions by one party to the education, training, or increased earning potential of the other party
- The opportunity for future acquisition of assets and income by each party
- Sources of income for each party
- Contributions by each spouse in acquiring and preserving marital property, including contribution as a homemaker
- Value of the property
- Standard of living for each spouse established during the marriage
- Economic circumstances of the parties at the time of the property division
- Federal, State, and local tax ramifications of the assets
- Sale, transfer, or liquidation costs of the asset(s)
- Whether a party serves as the custodian of independent, minor children
Often, couples settle differences with the help of a lawyer for divorce or divorce mediator. Consequently, the spouses enter into a written contract defined as a divorce settlement agreement. In turn, the couple or its divorce attorney submit the agreement to the court as part of the final judgment. Sans a divorce settlement agreement, a judge, makes the final determination regarding equitable distribution.
Pennsylvania law does not mandate a 50/50 division of marital property. However, it's relatively common. For instance, in cases with spouses having similar incomes and with marital assets, including a house and modest retirement accounts, courts typically order a 50/50 division. As a result, a divorce attorney usually facilitates an expedited divorce settlement. After all, the division of marital assets is straightforward.
In other cases, however, that division is less clear. Take a case where one spouse earns substantially more than the other spouse. In addition, one spouse has significant student debt. Plus, the one spouse may have a great deal of non-marital assets. This type of scenario yields less clarity regarding equitable distribution. You'll always want to consult with a lawyer for divorce near you to clarify a proper division of assets.
At High Swartz, our divorce lawyers identify your goals and present realistic expectations. We, then, thoroughly prepare for and carefully monitor every stage of your proceedings. We insist that opposing counsel respond promptly, so issues are resolved within a reasonable time. So, when you're looking for a divorce lawyer near you in Bucks County or Montgomery County, make sure you talk to us.
Divorces Involving Complex Marital Assets and Estates
Complexities relating to equitable distribution needn't involve a plethora of riches. For example, it may include parties of modest means with assets and liabilities challenging to divide. On the contrary, it may also involve large estates with disputes relating to a fair division of marital assets.
It's vitally important to address the layers of complexity in divorce cases involving significant or unusual marital estates. Our divorce attorneys start by identifying four items:
- Marital assets
- Non-marital assets
- Prenuptial agreement
With a prenuptial agreement, our lawyers for divorce examine its validity to make sure it's enforceable. In addition, we arrange to have business and economic experts value stock options, interests in closely held corporations, pensions, retirement assets, real estate holdings, debt, and other marital property.
Remember, you should always consult with your divorce attorney regarding the cost-effective resolution of the division of complicated assets. Our divorce lawyers typically recommend a practical approach for faster solutions in modest asset or significant liability cases. However, in cases involving high-value assets, our lawyers often recommend enlisting a forensic accountant or financial planner. Doing so ensures you get the best insight possible relating to your marital assets.
Need Help Determining Equitable Distribution for Your Divorce?
As discussed, equitable distribution can be a simple matter. However, it can become tremendously complex. Our attorneys and lawyers will work with you to identify what's rightfully yours. That may require some minor modifications to a divorce settlement agreement. Or it could involve alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as family law mediation, arbitration, and collaborative law. In the most complex cases, our divorce attorneys will go to trial if it's in your best interests.
Our family divorce lawyers help you prepare for the future. Apart from equitable distribution disputes, we assist clients with various domestic relations matters, including custody, third party and grandparent custody, stepparent adoption, modification of existing orders, and protection from abuse.
Call us today if you're searching for lawyers for divorce in Bucks County or Montgomery County in Pennsylvania. U.S. News recognizes us as one of the Best Law Firms for 2022. And don't forget to learn even more about divorce and its inherent issues at our Divorce Guidance section of this site. Our divorce lawyers present pertinent issues that will help you on your journey.