Montgomery County Equitable Distribution Attorney
Contrary to popular myth, “equitable” is not the same thing as “equal.” Instead, “equitable” basically means “fair.” A fair division of marital assets and debts, unlike an equal division, varies in different situations. Nevertheless, there is a strong presumption in Pennsylvania that an equal division is also equitable. So, to force a disproportionate division, there must be substantial evidence regarding inequality on one or more factors, as outlined below.
Property divisions are usually complex. But at Kardos, Rickles & Hand, our experienced Montgomery County equitable distribution attorneys have seen it all before. So, we quickly and accurately assess the financial situation in your case. Then, we craft a plan of attack which upholds your legal and financial rights. Once we put our plan into motion, we do not relent until we obtain the best possible result under the circumstances.
The first step in an equitable division is classifying property as marital or nonmarital. The general rule is quite straightforward. Any asset or debt acquired before the marriage or by gift is nonmarital property, and everything else is marital property. But this general rule often requires more than a calendar or a receipt to implement.
Assume Susan inherited a rental house from her parents. Her husband Mike, who owns a small construction firm, updates the house. Depending on the additional facts, if Susan and Mike divorce, the house could be her nonmarital property, his nonmarital property, or marital property subject to an equitable division. These same possible determinations apply to all prior and future rental income and maintenance costs.
Such commingling is extremely common in lengthy marriages. Most couples do not both segregate assets and debts. Instead, they put everything into joint accounts. That habit builds trust between the spouses, but it can result in a knot that’s not easy to untangle.
In practical terms, an equitable division means that ex-spouses should not have more debts than they can comfortably pay or more assets which artificially inflate their standard of living. To assist in the division process, Pennsylvania law sets forth a number of property division factors, including:
- Standard of living during the relationship,
- Length of the marriage,
- Relative age, health, and educational backgrounds,
- Future earning capacity of each spouse,
- Dissipation (waste) of assets,
- Noneconomic contributions to the relationship, and
- Tax considerations.
Typically, most spouses agree that the marital estate division must be equitable, but they disagree on the specifics.
Frequently, a mediator can take agreement on broad principles and translate it to agreement on specific issues. Family law mediation usually lasts a half day or a full day. During that time, a mediator works with both sides to bring about a settlement. If both sides negotiate in good faith, marital property mediation is usually successful.
It is very important to get property divisions right the first time. Once the judge closes this portion of a divorce case, it is very difficult to reopen it.
Reach Out to a Thorough Attorney
Pennsylvania law requires equitable marital property divisions. For a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Montgomery County, contact Kardos, Rickles & Hand. Convenient payment plans are available.