What is Marital Property?
Equitable distribution requires the Court to identify, evaluate and distribute marital property. The Divorce Code establishes the presumption that marital property includes "all property acquired by either party during the marriage [without regard to title], including the increase in value aEUR?of any non-marital property acquired [prior to marriage or by gift, bequest, devise or descent]." It is the time of acquisition, rather than title, that determines the nature of marital property. By a preponderance of evidence, a party may exclude non-marital property if it falls into one of the nine exceptions enumerated in the Divorce Code. Among these exceptions, the most significant are: (1) pre-marital property; (2) property excluded by prenuptial agreement; (3) gifts and inheritances received during the marriage; and (4) property acquired after separation.
How is Marital Property Valued?
To evaluate marital assets, the court generally determines "fair market value." Although the court utilizes the date of separation to identify marital assets, the presumptive date for valuation is the date of trial. A party who contributes non-marital property to the marital estate may be entitled to a credit, which declines over time, to compensate for the non-marital contribution. Additionally, a party who utilizes post-separation income to maintain marital assets may be entitled to credit.
How is Marital Property Divided in Pennsylvania?
After marital property is identified and evaluated, the court must consider eleven statutory criteria to determine an equitable distribution of marital property. Contrary to popular belief, the court does not start with a presumption of a 50%-50% distribution. The court may consider the parties' respective incomes, their ability to rebuild assets and income in the future, the value of their separate property, their custodial responsibilities, and other factors. Marital fault is not one of the criteria that the court may consider in equitable distribution. If the factors weigh in favor of one of the spouses, the court may award a greater share of the marital property to that spouse. It is not uncommon to see a 55%-45% division of marital property, a 60%-40% division, or even more extreme divisions of marital property.