The division of marital property of the parties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is an equitable but not equal distribution. [23 PaSCA 3502 ] Distribution may occur in a number of ways. First, the parties themselves may agree to a distribution, enter a Property Settlement Agreement and resolve the issue of equitable distribution in and of itself; second, the parties may use a mediator who will attempt to mediate the issue of equitable distribution to the satisfaction of both parties; or third, the Court may be called upon by one or both of the parties to have an equitable distribution hearing and enter an equitable distribution order of the marital property of the parties. [23 PaSCA 3502] Only the last method is appealable in the intermediate and Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. A party may appeal to the Appellate Court if a party can show fraud or coercion. 23 PaSCA 3501 et seq.
Marital property is generally determined based on date of marriage to date of separation. [23 PaSCA 3501] There may be areas where the marital property is determined based on date of marriage to date of distribution, and lastly, depending on what one spouse has done, a spouse may take a non marital property and convert it to marital property thereby changing its status and it may appear that the Court has gone prior to the date of marriage to make an equitable distribution. In the cases where it appears the Court has gone to prior to the date of marriage it is generally the result of an action by one of the parties taking non marital property and converting it into marital property.
Non marital property is that property owned by a party prior to the date of marriage or acquired by one of parties after the date of the marriage but was made non marital by Statute. There are a number of separate areas wherein one party can acquire property during the marriage but the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has determined so long as that property does not lose its status as non marital, it will remain non marital property evening though acquired during the marriage itself. [23 PaSCA 3501(a)] Non marital property is not to be considered by a judge or a mediator in determining equitable distribution in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania if the status of the property remains the same, that is the non marital property remained non marital property through the marriage. As stated above any party can convert non marital property into marital property by his/her actions.
In Pennsylvania the rules require if there is marital property it should be divided before the divorce is granted. However, there is a procedure for bifurcate the action allowing the divorce to entered first. This action however is rarely granted and good cause must be shown to the Judge.