“Marital property” is any and all property acquired by either party during the course of a marriage, as well as the increase in value of certain nonmarital property that was acquired prior to the marriage, subject to certain exceptions. Pennsylvania law operates under the presumption that all real or personal property acquired by either party during the marriage is presumed to be marital property. However, this presumption can be overcome in certain circumstances.
At the request of either party in an action for divorce or annulment, the court equitably divides, distributes, or assigns the marital property between the two parties. In Pennsylvania, this equitable distribution of marital property is done without regard to marital misconduct by either party, which means that proving fault does not matter. The court may distribute the marital property in percentages or any such manner it deems just after considering all of the relevant factors, which include, but are not limited to:
- (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.
The process in Pennsylvania is to establish grounds for divorce and then move into equitable distribution of marital property with the Court if no agreement can be reached between the parties. The parties will first appear before a hearing officer before going in front of a judge for a trial if either party dispute the hearing officer’s findings and recommendation. Often, cases are settled with Property Settlement Agreements entered into by the parties. Property Settlement Agreements must address all of the marital property subject to division, adhere to normal contract principles, and cannot be modified unless by agreement of the parties. If the parties are unable to come to an agreement and the matter proceeds to trial, the Order entered by the Court after trial then resolves the equitable distribution portion of the case.