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Measuring Spousal Contribution in Pennsylvania Equitable Distribution

monetary contributions

Division of property can be one of the most contested aspects of a divorce. Under Pennsylvania’s system of equitable distribution, assets and debts acquired during a marriage are generally deemed jointly owned and so must be divided between the spouses. However, there is no presumption that they are to be divided evenly. On the contrary, a divorce court will analyze many factors to arrive at a fair allocation of property — among them, a spouse’s noneconomic contributions to the marriage. 

The purpose of equitable distribution is to give both spouses the financial foundation they need to be self-sustaining after divorce. The law recognizes that one spouse may have served primarily as a homemaker and thus may not be able to rejoin the workforce without education or training. What’s more, a spouse awarded primary custody of the couple’s children will likely have added expenses that impact his or her economic situation as well as responsibilities that affect the ability to work full-time.

To attempt to correct these inequalities, a Pennsylvania judge will consider, among other things:

  • One spouse’s contribution to the education, training or increased earning power of the other spouse — This takes into account a spouse having given up or shortchanged educational and/or job prospects, thereby enabling the other spouse to advance in his or her career. It also applies where one spouse had been the sole breadwinner for the family so that the other spouse could complete professional or vocational education.
  • Each spouse’s contribution to acquisition, preservation or appreciation of marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker — This recognizes that there are numerous ways in which a nonworking spouse can provide value to the family’s overall wealth and well-being. Notably, a stay-at-home parent helps a couple avoid having to pay for outside child care and may also save on other out-of-pocket costs, such as home maintenance. 
  • Whether a spouse will be serving as the custodian of any dependent minor children — Part of equitable distribution is aimed at preserving the standard of living for the children of the marriage. This means ensuring the spouse with primary custody has sufficient resources to pay for the expenses associated with child care. In some situations, the court may award that spouse the right to reside in the marital residence for a prescribed length of time.

Several other factors are weighed, including the spouses’ ages, health, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability and opportunity for future acquisition of capital assets. Overall, the court will try to bring about a property division that is just in view of all the circumstances.

The experienced legal team at Morton & Kubacke Family Law, LLC in West Chester will fight to protect your rights during equitable distribution so that you receive a fair property award. Call us at 888-698-1787 or contact us online for a consultation.

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