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5 Factors To Consider When Dividing Marital Property

Posted By Attorney Jim Cairns || 3-Mar-2013

As you are working through your marital settlement agreement you may be wondering which factors to take into consideration. The idea is to make the marital settlement agreement fair for both you and your spouse. In Pennsylvania, this does not necessarily mean making a fifty-fifty split of all of your marital assets.

Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state when it comes to uncontested divorce. This signifies that marital property is not necessarily split fifty-fifty. Distribution of marital property is figured out on a variety of factors so each spouse can have a fair portion.

One of the initial steps to take in dividing marital assets is to calculate the value of your marital property. This includes both assets and debts. Make sure to include everything, since decisions you and your spouse make now will affect your financial health in your future.

As you approach the final phases of negotiating your marital settlement agreement, you may want to consider income earning power. If one spouse has a higher level of earning power than the other, it can be an factor which affects your marital settlement agreement. For example, if your spouse earns significantly more than you, then you might offset the difference by negotiating for more marital property. The reasoning is that he or she can recover the assets quicker and easier, since income is much higher.

If you have been managing the home you may have more room to negotiate with your spouse. This is especially true if you have made career sacrifices in order to help maintain the home. Maintaining a home and taking care of children is often recognized as giving the other spouse the potential to earn more income. You wouldn't necessarily get more, but your contributions to managing the home would have value during negotiations.

Your standard of living established during your marriage is another factor which can come into the negotiations. When working out alimony/spousal support, the financially weaker spouse should be able to continue to live a reasonably comparable standard of living as created in the marriage.

A reduction of marital assets, also known as dissipation, by either spouse can be used as an area of stipulation. If a spouse has abused marital monies, this can also leave more room for negotiation. Areas which fall under this category include:

  1. Loss of money in risky business ventures;
  2. Gambling;
  3. Money and or gifts given to a lover;
  4. Excessive spending;
  5. Gifts given to spouse's family members, especially if the other spouse objected.

Non-marital property can be used to the advantage of a less wealthy spouse. If one spouse has a significant amount of non-marital property and the other spouse does not, this can be used to help the more financially vulnerable spouse. For example, if one spouse has three cars and the other spouse does not have a car, then a vehicle may be considered for the less wealthy spouse.