One of the reasons that divorce outcomes are often unpredictable is that every state has its own rules. That means that the stories you’ve heard and the divorces you witnessed in your real life may not have any bearing on your current legal situation.
Pennsylvania is among our majority of states in the country that currently recognize the equitable distribution standard when it comes to splitting up your assets in a divorce. Understanding how equitable distribution works and what assets or debts are vulnerable to division in a divorce can help you make better decisions when planning for the end of your marriage.
What does equitable distribution actually mean?
When the courts refer to the division of assets as being equitable, what they mean is fair. They don’t necessarily mean even but rather a split that reflects the exact circumstances of your family.
The courts may consider factors such as the length of your marriage, your income potential, any medical conditions affecting either spouse and the custody of children when deciding who gets what in a divorce. Any assets that the courts view as marital property are subject to division in divorce proceedings.
What constitutes marital property?
Everything you own and all the debts you owe are either marital or separate property. Separate property belongs to only one spouse, while marital property belongs to both. Any assets acquired during the marriage, including income from a job, will typically be marital property.
Your separate property includes assets or debts you had prior to marriage, gifts and an inheritance that named only you as the beneficiary. Most everything else is subject to division, and even separate property can become vulnerable in certain circumstances.
If you have a strong desire to protect certain assets, negotiating before you file for divorce for uncontested divorce terms could help you secure ownership of those specific assets. Otherwise, you will have to wait for the courts to make a determination.