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May 30, 2013

Equitable Distribution is Not Equal Distribution

Divorce and General Articles

Often couples who come through the Alpha Center Divorce Mediation Program begin with the assumption that all of their assets and debts will be divided right down the middle. They believe that this is the only way that they will have a “fair” settlement.

The Pennsylvania Divorce Code, which contains the laws governing divorce, presents a different standard of fairness. Under that law, division of assets and debts must be done on an “equitable” basis rather than an equal one.

The law presents 11 factors that must be considered in determining how assets and debts are divided. After all of these factors are considered; most of the divisions in the court end up ranging anywhere from 50/50 to 60/40.

One of the most important factors concerns the earning ability of each party. In a situation where one person earns $100,000.00 per year and the other $50,000.00, the lower earner is likely to receive a greater percentage of the marital estate. The theory is that the lower earner is entitled to additional funds so that their financial situation will be more comparable to that of their spouse after divorce.

Other factors that tip the percentages are, one parent having primary custody of younger children; a party with health problems; tax matters; as well as other “fairness” factors considered under the Divorce Code.

Couples who go hire divorce litigation attorneys can spend a good portion of their nest egg paying their attorneys to argue about these factors. When the decision is finally made, there is likely to be significantly less to be divided and greater debt to be carried forward.

In Alpha Center’s Divorce Mediation Program, our attorneys review the Equitable Distribution factors with the couple so that they clearly understand what the likely percentage would be if they went through the Court. The fees are minimal by comparison and so the couple leaves with more of their nest egg intact. This can make a major difference to their quality of life as they begin building their new individual lives.

Although “Equitable” doesn’t mean “Equal”, there is no doubt that everyone walks away with more money when they choose mediation rather than litigation.

Keila M. Gilbert, Esquire founded Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation 18 years ago after her own divorce disaster. Their comprehensive divorce mediation program is offered to clients throughout the Delaware Valley including Bucks County, Montgomery County, Lehigh County, Plymouth Meeting PA, King of Prussia, PA; Newtown, PA; Doylestown, PA as well as other locations.