At some point during Divorce proceedings, the parties and their Counsels must deal with the division of the marital estate or equitable distribution. Pennsylvania lawyers know that the marital estate is generally defined as that property that the parties obtain during the marriage and before separation. There are certain exclusions such as inheritances or gifts, but generally it is the property obtained plus any increase in value of property brought into the marriage.
The divorce lawyer must also look at the other side of the balance sheet to determine the marital liabilities. These are liabilities that the parties incur during the marriage and increases in liabilities for those debts brought into the marriage, but before separation.
The first task a Pennsylvania divorcee faces is to determine what assets make up the estate. This is done by interviewing the potential client to determine some very important dates and other information. First, what date were the couples married and what assets and their respective values did each individual bring into the marriage and what assets and respective values were acquired during the marriage? The divorce attorney must then answer the same questions regarding the divorcing couple’s liabilities.
Once the marital assets and liabilities are determined the, the attorney will look at the total net assets and determine how the marital estate should be allocated. The problem with Pennsylvania divorce law is that there is no set formula as to how to divide the assets. Instead, Pennsylvania family law allows the Court in its discretion to divide the assets as it sees “equitable”. The following factors are looked at by the Court in making their decision.
· The length of the marriage.
· Any prior marriage of either party.
· The age, health, station, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties.
· The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party.
· The opportunity of each party for future acquisitions of capital assets and income.
· The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits.
· 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.
· The value of the property set apart to each party.
· The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.
· The economic circumstances of each party, including Federal, State and local tax ramifications, at the time the division of property is to become effective.
· Whether the party will be serving as the custodian of any dependent minor children.
The Court’s truly evaluate these factors in each individual case.