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Family Law

Equitable Division of Marital Property

Pennsylvania Equitable Division of Marital Property Attorneys

Divorce actions often  have multiple additional claims attached to them.   One of these additional claims, and a major source of litigation and contention in family law litigation,  is the equitable division of the marital estate.  The definition of “marital property” and the factors which are relevant to the court’s equitable division of marital property are important legal matters to be considered by the parties to a  family law case.

ABOUT MARITAL PROPERTY

What is “marital property?”

“Marital property” means all property acquired by either party during the marriage,  and the increase in value of any nonmarital property acquired (1) prior to marriage or property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage; and (2) by gift, except between spouses, bequest, devise or descent or property acquired in exchange for such property. 23 Pa.C.S. §3501 (a).

The increase in value of any nonmarital property acquired in this manner is measured from the date of marriage or later acquisition date to either the date of final separation or the date as close to the hearing on equitable distribution as possible, whichever date results in a lesser value.

Any decrease in value of the nonmarital property of a party shall be offset against any increase in value of the nonmarital property of that party. However, a decrease in value of the nonmarital property of a party shall not be offset against any increase in value of the nonmarital property of the other party or against any other marital property subject to equitable division. 23 Pa.C.S. §3501 (a.1).

What is excluded from “marital property?”

“Marital Property” does NOT include:

  1. Property acquired prior to marriage or property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage. 23 Pa.C.S. §3501 (a)(1).
  2. Property excluded by valid agreement of the parties entered into before, during or after the marriage. 23 Pa.C.S. §3501(a)(2).
  3. Property acquired by gift, except between spouses, bequest, devise or descent or property acquired in exchange for such property. 23 Pa.C.S. §3501(a)(3).
  4. Property acquired after final separation until the date of divorce, except for property acquired in exchange for marital assets. 23 Pa.C.S. §3501(a)(4).
  5. Property which a party has sold, granted, conveyed or otherwise disposed of in good faith and for value prior to the date of final separation. 23 Pa.C.S. §3501(a)(5).
  6. Veterans’ benefits exempt from attachment, levy or seizure, pursuant to 38 U.S.C.A. 5301, except for those benefits received by a veteran where the veteran has waived a portion of his military retirement pay in order to receive veterans’ compensation.  23 Pa.C.S. §3501(a)(6).
  7. Property to the extent to which the property has been mortgaged or otherwise encumbered in good faith for value prior to the date of final separation.23 Pa.C.S. §3501(a)(7).
  8. Any payment received as a result of an award or settlement for any cause of action or claim which accrued prior to the marriage or after the date of final separation regardless of when the payment was received. 23 Pa.C.S. §3501(a)(8).
What factors are relevant to the equitable division of marital property?

The court equitably divides, distributes or assigns, in kind or otherwise, the marital property between the parties without regard to marital misconduct and in such percentages as the court deems just. Factors which the court deems relevant to the equitable division of marital property include the following:

  1. The length of the marriage. 23 Pa.C.S. §3502(a)(1).
  2. Any prior marriage of either party.  23 Pa.C.S. §3502(a)(2).
  3. The age, health, station, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties.23 Pa.C.S. §3502(a)(3).
  4. The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party. 23 Pa.C.S. §3502(a)(4).
  5. The opportunity of each party for future acquisitions of capital assets and income. 23 Pa.C.S. §3502(a)(5).
  6. The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits. 23 Pa.C.S. §3502(a)(6).
  7. The contribution or dissipation of each party in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation or appreciation of the marital property, including the contribution of a party as homemaker. 23 Pa.C.S. §3502(a)(7).
  8. The value of the property set apart to each party.  23 Pa.C.S. §3502(a)(8)
  9. The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage. 23 Pa.C.S. §3502(a)(9).
  10. The economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property is to become effective. 23 Pa.C.S. §3502(a)(10).
  11. The Federal, State and local tax ramifications associated with each asset to be divided, distributed or assigned, which ramifications need not be immediate and certain. 23 Pa.C.S. §3502(a)(10.1).
  12. The expense of sale, transfer or liquidation associated with a particular asset, which expense need not be immediate and certain. 23 Pa.C.S. §3502(a)(10.2)
  13. Whether the party will be serving as the custodian of any dependent minor children. 23 Pa.C.S. §3502(a)(11).

HOW ARE ``DEFINED BENEFIT RETIREMENT PLANS`` HANDLED?

The marital portion of a defined benefit retirement plan is  allocated by means of a “coverture fraction” applied to the benefit using either the “deferred distribution” method or the “immediate offset” method.

What is a “coverture fraction?”

All of us have used  “fractions” at some point in our lives, such as when we wish to purchase or acquire less than 100 % of something.  Examples of fractions are “1/3” or “1/2.” The  top part of the fraction is the “numerator” and the lower part of the fraction is the denominator.

In the equitable division of a defined benefit retirement plan, the marital and nonmarital portions of the plan are allocated solely by the use of a “coverture fraction.”

``Deferred Distribution`` Method

In the case of the marital portion of a defined benefit retirement plan being distributed by means of a “deferred distribution”  method, the denominator of the coverture fraction is the number of months the employed spouse worked to earn the total benefit. The numerator of the coverture fraction is the number of months during which the parties were married and not finally separated. The benefit to which the coverture fraction is applied includes all postseparation enhancements except for enhancements arising from postseparation monetary contributions made by the employee spouse, including the gain or loss on such contributions.  23 Pa.C.S. §3501(c).

``Immediate Offset`` Method

In the case of the marital portion of a defined benefit retirement plan being distributed by means of an “immediate offset” method,  the denominator of the coverture fraction is the number of months the employee spouse worked to earn the accrued benefit as of a date as close to the time of trial as reasonably possible. The numerator of the coverture fraction is the number of such months during which the parties were married and not finally separated. The benefit to which the coverture fraction is applied shall include all postseparation enhancements up to a date as close to the time of  trial as reasonably possible except for enhancements arising from the postseparation monetary contributions made by the employee spouse, including the gain or loss on such contributions. 23 Pa.C.S. §3501(c).

USE OF EXPERT WITNESS IN EQUITABLE DIVISION OF MARTIAL ASSETS

The services of an expert witness frequently is required when equitably dividing the marital assets.   Rule 702 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence defines an “expert” as anyone who, by virtue of knowledge, skill, experience, training or education,  possesses “scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge beyond that possessed by a layperson” that will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.

Examples of expert witnesses used in the context of the equitable division of marital assets  include, without limitation, forensic economists and/or credentialed actuaries  for the valuation of  pension and retirement assets and  the  preparation of  the Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), real estate and property appraisers, medical professionals, and forensic psychological experts.

TRUST THE HIGHLY EXPERIENCED FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYS AT CHARLES LAW OFFICES WITH YOUR EQUITABLE DIVISION OF MARITAL ASSETS CASE

With so many legal issues and factual complications surrounding the equitable division of marital assets,  it is imperative to seek the legal guidance of a highly experienced   family law attorney who is knowledgeable not only in the law of equitable division of marital assets but, also, in the litigation of such matters — like the attorneys at Charles Law Offices.    Attorneys Fredrick E. Charles and Dennis G. Charles of the Charles Law Offices have successfully represented their family law clients   in equitable division of marital assets cases for nearly 40 years with a reputation for excellence.

 

So, if you, or a loved one, are in need of legal guidance and assistance in the equitable distribution of a marital estate, give us a call at 610-437-7064, or fill out the questionnaire appearing on this page.  Our staff of highly trained, knowledgeable and experienced attorneys is here 24/7  to guide you through this troubled time, and help you with all of your family law questions and issues. Don’t settle for anything less!

 

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with a lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the attorneys at Charles Law Offices.

In need of legal guidance and assistance in the equitable distribution of a marital estate?

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The Charles Brothers’ devotion to the law is derived from a family history in the legal system and of service to others. Their father, Charles “Chink” Charles (depicted in the lower left-hand corner of the photograph) held a 35 year career in law enforcement, and was selected to serve as the personal bodyguard for former United States Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson during their campaign visits to Allentown.

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