Equitable Distribution

Parties sometimes settle their economic issues out of court using Separation Agreements. A Separation Agreement is as a contract between the parties that determines post-marriage rights and liabilities.

If the parties address their economic issues in court, they will do so through Equitable Distribution. The Court uses statutory factors to determine how to equitably distribute property between the parties.

A Court will generally not divide the “separate property” of the spouses. “Separate property” is property acquired before marriage or acquired during marriage by one spouse as a gift, bequest, or inheritance. However, a court can take into consideration the amount of separate property a spouse has as a factor in distributing marital property.

“Marital property” consists of any property the spouses acquired during the marriage, as well as gifts between spouses during marriage, and the increase in value of separate property during marriage.

Pennsylvania courts have the discretion to place a value on the parties’ property and to distribute the assets equitably.

Below is an abbreviated and summarized version of part of what the Pennsylvania Pa.R.C.P. and/or Pa.C.S.A. provides.

(Please note that this content may not be continuously updated, and thus may not contain the most recent updates and/or revisions of the Pennsylvania laws and supplemental information. This information is provided for overview and information purposes, and is not meant to be legal advice. It is always best to consult with an experienced family law attorney, who utilizes much more than the following information, including caselaw, statutory law, and other resources to provide legal advice.):

§ 3502. Equitable division of marital property

(a) General rule.-In an action for divorce or annulment, the court shall, upon request of either party, equitably divide, distribute or assign, in kind or otherwise, the marital property between the parties without regard to marital misconduct in such proportions and in such manner as the court deems just after considering all relevant factors, including:

  • (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.

(b) Lien.-The court may impose a lien or charge upon property of a party as security for the payment of alimony or any other award for the other party.

(c) Family home.-The court may award, during the pendency of the action or otherwise, to one or both of the parties the right to reside in the marital residence.

(d) Life insurance.-The court may direct the continued maintenance and beneficiary designations of existing policies insuring the life or health of either party which were originally purchased during the marriage and owned by or within the effective control of either party. Where it is necessary to protect the interests of a party, the court may also direct the purchase of, and beneficiary designations on, a policy insuring the life or health of either party.

(e) Powers of the court.-If, at any time, a party has failed to comply with an order of equitable distribution, as provided for in this chapter or with the terms of an agreement as entered into between the parties, after hearing, the court may, in addition to any other remedy available under this part, in order to effect compliance with its order:

  • (1) enter judgment;
  • (2) authorize the taking and seizure of the goods and chattels and collection of the rents and profits of the real and personal, tangible and intangible property of the party;
  • (3) award interest on unpaid installments;
  • (4) order and direct the transfer or sale of any property required in order to comply with the court's order;
  • (5) require security to insure future payments in compliance with the court's order;
  • (6) issue attachment proceedings, directed to the sheriff or other proper officer of the county, directing that the person named as having failed to comply with the court order be brought before the court, at such time as the court may direct. If the court finds, after hearing, that the person willfully failed to comply with the court order, it may deem the person in civil contempt of court and, in its discretion, make an appropriate order, including, but not limited to, commitment of the person to the county jail for a period not to exceed six months;
  • (7) award counsel fees and costs;
  • (8) attach wages; or
  • (9) find the party in contempt.

(f) Partial distribution.--The court, upon the request of either party, may at any stage of the proceedings enter an order providing for an interim partial distribution or assignment of marital property.

For more information on equitable distribution, please contact Pittsburgh Pennsylvania divorce lawyer Bethany L. Notaro, Esquire.