Community Property State Versus Equitable Distribution State

Posted on January 22nd, 2020

Divorce is complicated. Not only are tensions and feelings running high, but understanding who gets what out of the settlement can be excruciating. So how does Pennsylvania distribute marital property? Kalinoski Law Offices is here to help. 

Let’s take a look at the difference between equitable distribution states versus community property state.

Equitable Distribution State

Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state meaning that in a divorce, the needs of each spouse will be considered. But do not be confused by its moniker as equitable does not mean equal. 

In the equitable distribution models, the court will divide assets based on a number of factors including but not limited to: 

  • The length of the marriage
  • Prior marriages of either spouse
  • The income of each spouse
  • The value of the property
  • Standard of living established in the marriage
  • The federal, state and local tax ramifications associated with each asset to be divided, distributed or assigned

In the equitable distribution model, the couples have the opportunity to come to an agreement on what is equitable before it does to court intervention. When it cannot be determined outside of court, that’s when you’ll need the guidance of a trusted family law firm.

Community Property State

Unlike Pennsylvania’s equitable distribution state, there are nine states which consider marital assets community property. Those states are Louisiana, Arizona, California, Texas, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. 

Community property states follow the rule that all assets acquired during the marriage are considered “community property.”

So, what does that mean?

Essentially, property owned by the couple during the marriage will be owned 50/50 at the time of divorce. Marital property includes earnings, property purchases, and debts accrued during the life of the marriage. Any earning or debts made after the marriage ends will then become separate property. 

Understanding what type of state you live in is critical. But also knowing what property is rightfully yours is key. 

Separate Property

Under Pennsylvania divorce law, the property is categorized in two ways: separate or marital.

Separate property is that which belongs to one spouse solely while martial is owned jointly by the couple. 

Examples of separate property can include:

  • Property acquired and paid off in full before the marriage like a car
  • Inheritances and gifts 
  • Any property excluded from marital property made known by a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement
  • Property acquired after separation

Divorce is complicated. But finding a trusted lawyer who can help you navigate the system can help.

Let a Scranton Family Lawyer Help You Achieve Your Goals

Kalinoski Law Office is ready to handle your divorce case with the compassion and care you deserve. We will thoroughly examine all of your options and advocate for you from the start of the proceedings until an agreement is reached. For more information, contact our Scranton family law firm for a free initial consultation.

Category: Divorce

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Craig Kalinoski
Craig Kalinoski

Craig P. Kalinoski is a respected attorney serving clients in Scranton, Pennsylvania. With a focus on Family Law, Criminal Defense, and Civil Rights, he has established himself as a top-rated legal professional. Recognized as a Rising Star and admired by peers, Craig's commitment to excellence sets him apart in the legal field.


We fight for the rights of our clients in a wide spectrum of practice areas, ranging from criminal defense to family law and personal injury.

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