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.
“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).
“Marital Property” does NOT include:
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:
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.
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.”
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.