During the course of a marriage, a couple can acquire several assets, tangible and intangible, that must be valued and divided in the event of divorce. The process of valuing and dividing those assets is called equitable distribution in Pennsylvania. However, dividing assets does not mean you must go to trial. Often times, the couple will agree upon an asset division and enter into an agreement. Even if the parties cannot agree on an asset division, they may choose an alternative dispute resolution process rather than traditional litigation to maintain some level of control, and because those processes are often faster.
At Raver Rawlings & Parker PLLC, our Pittsburgh-based divorce lawyers will help guide you through the equitable distribution process -- whether in traditional litigation or otherwise -- to help you achieve your goals. First, we will help you identify marital and non-marital assets. Once we have identified the assets, we will assist you with valuing and coming up with an equitable distribution scheme to present to the court or your spouse. Contact us online or call us at 412-712-0011 to schedule a consultation.
What is the Equitable Division of Marital Property in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, as a general rule, all assets acquired during your marriage, regardless of title, and the increase in value of assets you had prior to your marriage will be subject to equitable distribution. While more exceptions exist, the main exceptions are as follows:
- Property acquired after the parties' final date of separation;
- Property excluded by a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agrement;
- Property acquired by gift or inheritance (so long as it was not later put into joint names); and
- Property owned prior to the marriage (although the increase in value during the marriage will likely be subject to equitable distribution).
Because Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, and not an equal distribution state, the percentage division of assets is based on a number of factors meant to lead to the most fair result. At times, this may mean taking into consideration property that is owned separately by just one spouse when deciding the best way to divvy up belongings.
The equitable distribution factors are as follows:
What Are Common Challenges to the Equitable Division of Property?
- Dividing Debts. Similar to assets, debts incurred during marriage are subject to equitable distribution. Common examples include car loans, mortgages, and credit card debt. However, certain debts, such as student loans or debts acquired that served no marital purpose, may not be divided pursuant to the overall distribution scheme. In other words, one party made be primarily -- or solely -- responsible for some debts, even if the court divides the assets equally.
- Increase in value of non-marital assets. The party claiming an asset is non-marital bears the burden of proving the non-marital value of the asset. If the marriage was long, obtaining documentation to show the asset's value at or near the date of marriage can be an exercise in futility. It is extremely important to do everything in your power to obtain the documentation, or the entire asset may be considered marital.
- Valuing business interests. Business valuation is an incredibly complex and factually intensive analysis in the divorce context. The assets owned by the business, the income stream generated by the business, and a party's interest in the business are extremely important. Expect to have the business' expenses analzyed and normalized, with personal expenses not considered, even if said expenses are tax deductible. We work closely with our clients and valuation experts to get the best possible valuation for our clients. Finally, personal goodwill may serve as an offset to a business' value; however, that does not apply if the goodwill is not based on the skills, reputation, and labor of the proprietor.
Contact a Family Law Attorney in Pittsburgh Today
At Raver Rawlings & Parker PLLC, our Pittsburgh-based attorenys want our clients going through a divorce to make informed decisions. We will be honest and straightforward about your options and persistent in making sure your rights and interests are upheld. Contact us today online or at 412-712-0011 to schedule a consultation.