When State College couples marry, they usually share a household and own assets and property in common. If the couple later divorces, they must divide this property between the two of them. In some cases, the couple can agree on who gets what. In other cases, the couple can agree to use mediation to help them divide their property. And in many more cases, the couple is not able to agree and a family law court must do the property division.

How does a court make this decision? Pennsylvania courts use the principle of equitable distribution when dividing a couple’s property. This means that the court will do more than simply divide the property into two equal halves and award one half to each member of the couple. Equitable distribution means that the court will decide on a division that is fair in the judge’s opinion.

How does a court do this in practice? It is had to say because it depends on the circumstances of each particular case. For example, if each member of a couple has about the same earning power and prospects for advancement, the court could, in its discretion, split the property 50-50 between the couple. If another couple has one member with significantly more education and better career prospects than the other, the court could award the better-off spouse less. If the couple has children and one spouse has primary custody of them, that spouse could be awarded the family home to raise the children in.

There are a huge number of factors that could affect property division, so it is hard to predict with any certainty what will happen. A family law attorney can look at a specific situation in detail and provide guidance to those with questions on property division.