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Marital asset and debt identification, distribution explained

When it comes to settling a divorce, Pennsylvania is an "equitable distribution" state. This does not mean that in the process of a divorce the marital property is divided equally. Rather, the marital property is separated based on what is considered fair by the Court of Common Pleas. Because this is a subjective exercise, the court takes numerous factors into consideration before making this decision.

If the couple cannot arrive at an agreeable distribution on their own, the court will intervene to identify the marital debts and assets, assign them values and present an equitable allocation. When trying to determine a fair deal, the court considers the length of the union and any prior marriages that the husband or wife may have had.

As the court makes its determination, the age, health, amount and sources of income and employability of each party are reviewed. It also seeks to determine if one spouse has benefited the other with education or training payments or subsidies. The court will also look at the property that has been pulled out of the pool of marital assets and allocated to each individual. Furthermore, the court will look at the tax implications of the different types of assets and if either party will be the custodian of minor children. The court keeps in mind numerous other considerations besides these listed.

In order for each divorcing person to ensure that his or her rights are maintained through the process, many spouses seek the input and assistance of legal counsel. An attorney may help the individual understand the steps of the divorce and advise on the property division spelled out in the marital settlement agreement.

Source: Divorce Support, "Pennsylvania Property Division Factors", September 12, 2014

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