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Aug 24, 2021

What is “Our” Stuff in Equitable Distribution?


An important part of the divorce code in Pennsylvania is the section on Equitable Distribution as many soon to be divorced couples have major concerns about their financial future.

Mike Routh, Esquire, an Attorney Mediator at Alpha center for Divorce Mediation, talks with Georganne Ford about important part of the divorce code in Pennsylvania is the section on Equitable Distribution.

Within Equitable Distribution or the division of the marital assets and debts, the couple divides their marital property. Marital property is defined as all property acquired by either party during the marriage, including the increase in value of property acquired prior to the marriage, up to the date of separation. Due to this broad definition, many questions arise around what is included in marital property and how is that determined. The first step is defining a separation date.

The date of separation, in Pennsylvania, is determined by when the parties stopped acting as a married couple. This expansive definition creates a lot of area for disagreement, but there are some factors to look at which can help with this determination. They include, but are not limited to:

1) Sleeping in the same bed
2) Living in the same house
3) Doing things together with children or as a family unit
4) Maintaining joint financial accounts and dual decision making
5) Dating other people.

Taking these factors into consideration, a separation date needs to be established in order to assist with defining the marital property.

Once the separation date is determined, the parties are able to proceed with obtaining valuations of the various marital assets and debts. In Pennsylvania, the presumption is all real or personal property acquired by either party during the marriage is presumed to be marital property regardless of how it is titled. However, here are some of the exceptions:

1) Property excluded by an agreement – This would include pre-nuptial or post- nuptial agreements specifically identifying non-marital property
2) Property acquired by gift or inheritance – Such as the wedding rings or inheritances not co-mingled with rest of the marital assets.
3) Property acquired after the separation date – As long as marital funds are not used for the purchase, any property acquired by an individual after this date will be considered the property of the acquiring individual.
4) Any financial award or settlement received for an action that accrued prior to the marriage or after the date of separation. It does not matter the date the payment is received.

Due to the broad and expansive definitions of marital property and separation date included in this section of the divorce code, litigating attorneys can drive up the costs of the divorce proceeding by extending this process with needless arguments. Through mediation, both parties can arrive at a fair agreement on the division without using a portion of their marital assets to pay for attorney fees.

Accepting guidance from a firm that specializes in the practice of divorce mediation will ensure a smooth path along the difficult road of divorce. Alpha’s program may not be fast and cheap, but it will certainly save you time and money over the long run. Let our expertise help ensure the best possible outcome for you, your spouse, and your family.

Michael Hughes, Esq. is an attorney-mediator with the Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation. He can be reached at 800-310-9085 at mehughes@alpha-divorce.com.