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What does equitable distribution mean?

If you and your spouse decide to divorce in Pennsylvania, one of the things you will need to do is come up with an equitable distribution of your marital assets between the two of you. But what constitutes an equitable distribution?

While no precise definition exists, the Huffington Post reports that an equitable distribution does not necessarily mean that you and your spouse must divide your marital assets 50/50 when you divorce. Rather, you must divide them in a manner that is fair and equitable under your particular circumstances.

Marital assets

Remember, your equitable distribution applies only to your and your spouse’s marital property, i.e., the income and assets both of you acquired during your marriage, no matter which of you actually acquired them. Examples of marital property include the following:

  • Checking, savings and other cash accounts
  • Real estate
  • Retirement and pension plans, including IRAs, 401(k)s, etc.
  • Deferred compensation plans
  • Brokerage accounts
  • Vehicles, boats, antiques, art and other such personal property

Equitable considerations

Should you and your spouse fail to come up with your own equitable distribution of marital assets, the court will decide this issue for you, taking the following things into consideration:

  • Your respective ages and health situations
  • The length of your marriage
  • How much earning capacity and potential each of you possesses
  • How much income and/or property each of you brought into your marriage
  • How much, if any, each of you contributed to the other’s education, training, etc.
  • The standard of living the two of you established during your marriage and, if you have children, the amount the custodial parent will need to maintain that lifestyle for the children

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.


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