No, property division is not equal in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Both states have equitable distribution statutes which are based on a number of different factors. In Pennsylvania, there are 13 factors for equitable distribution which can be found at 23 Pa.C.S.A. §3502(a). The factors are all supposed to be given similar weight or priority. In practice however, the earnings and/or earning capacity of the party is considered very strongly by the Courts whereby the party who is the dependent party would be entitled to receive a larger share of the asset pool. Additionally, the party who will be the custodial parent of the child or children is also a significant factor and will receive an increased percentage of distribution. There may be other factors that will effect distribution such as inheritances or non-marital assets of a party. You need to consider all of the applicable factors in your case.
In New Jersey, the equitable distribution factors can be found at N.J.S.A. 2(a):34-23.1. The New Jersey Statute lists 16 factors that the Court must consider in developing an equitable distribution award. Likewise, to Pennsylvania, the differential in earnings and/or earning capacity is a significant factor and often the health of the parties is another significant factor that the Courts take into very serious consideration in making their awards. New Jersey has a unique factor of “the extent one party deferred achieving their career goals” is to be considered by the Court.
Both states evaluate property division using all the factors that the parties present to them in making decisions and as to what percentage of the marital estate each party would be entitled to receive at distribution. The attorney and the client need to present as many of the factors as possible that will benefit their position.
David L. Ladov is a partner and co-chair of the Family Law Group at Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP. He focuses his practice on divorce, including custody, child support, equitable distribution, abuse and domestic relations. David can be reached at (267) 675-4976. View his firm website www.obermayerfamilylaw.com and his Divorce Magazine Profile.