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Equitable Distribution in Pennsylvania

Toy house, car and cash with engagement ring

When your marriage has fallen apart, one of the most challenging tasks you’ll face can be the division of marital debts and assets, particularly if you’ve built up a substantial marital estate or there are extensive marital debts. Like the majority of states, Pennsylvania is an “equitable distribution” jurisdiction. The parties to a divorce are always free to work out the terms of the division of debts and assets, though the court always has discretion to review a marital property settlement to prevent fraud, duress or undue influence.

If the parties cannot negotiate a settlement, the court will look at a number of factors in an effort to allocate debts and assets “equitably.” It’s important to understand that “equitably” means “fairly,” but not necessarily equally.

The first thing the court will typically do is distinguish between “separate” property and “marital” property. Separate property is any property that belongs exclusively to one of the parties, and can include:

  • Property acquired before the marriage
  • Property received through gift or inheritance
  • Property excluded from the marital estate by a valid prenuptial/postnuptial agreement
  • Property obtained after separation

When determining how the the property will be distributed, the court can consider a broad range of factors, such as:

  • How long the parties were married
  • The age, health and income of each party
  • Other non-marital assets to which either party has access
  • The potential earning capacity of both parties
  • Whether there are minor children and one spouse will be required to be custodian of those children
  • The extent to which either spouse contributed to the increased earning potential of the other party (by working while the other spouse was in school, for example)

Contact Our Experienced Family Law Attorneys

Send us an e-mail or call our office to schedule an appointment to discuss any legal issue affecting your business. Evening and weekend consultations are available upon request.

The Acceptable Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania

Grounds for Divorce

Under the laws of Pennsylvania, as in all other states, you can file for a “no-fault” divorce. This can be a little misleading, suggesting that you don’t have to provide any reason for legally ending your marriage. To the contrary, you must still indicate the basis for seeking a divorce—no-fault simply means you don’t have to allocate blame for the collapse of the marriage.

Grounds for a No-Fault Divorce

When neither party is technically at fault, you need only tell the court that there has been an “irretrievable breakdown” of the bonds of marriage. A no-fault divorce may be by mutual consent, where both parties to the marriage agree that the marriage is over, or it may be unilateral, where one party files the petition and the other does not object. With a no-fault divorce by mutual consent, you need only wait 90 days for the divorce to become final. With a unilateral no-fault divorce, you must show that you have not cohabitated for 1 year and that the marriage cannot be fixed.

Grounds for an At-Fault Divorce

There’s no requirement that you allocate blame for the end of the marriage, but doing so can give you an advantage in your divorce proceedings. The permissible grounds for at-fault divorce in Pennsylvania include:

  • Marital infidelity or adultery
  • Bigamy
  • Domestic abuse, violence or cruelty, including mental abuse
  • Humiliation of a spouse, making the marriage no longer tenable
  • Abandonment of the relationship for at least one year
  • Conviction and imprisonment for a period of two or more years

Contact Our Experienced Family Law Attorneys

Send us an e-mail or call our office to schedule an appointment to discuss any of your legal issues. Evening and weekend consultations are available upon request.


  • B&D Law Group 1110 Kennebec Dr, Chambersburg, PA 17201

  • Call for consultation (717) 264-5194