There is a lot of confusing jargon that surrounds the average divorce. Just listening to people talk about the process could be enough to leave you feeling stressed out and confused. It is a common trait to repress or gloss over words and phrases we don’t understand in conversation.

There will probably be a lot of those in the early days when you file for divorce. Familiarizing yourself with them can help you better understand what you’ll experience.

If you aren’t familiar with the legal term “equitable distribution,” it is perfectly reasonable to feel confused and unsure of its meaning. Many people who hear the term immediately start to imagine a 50-50 division of assets. However, that expectation rarely aligns with the real outcome of the asset division process in Pennsylvania divorces.

Equitable division is interpretive, not absolute

Absolute terms are clear and concrete. A 50/50 division of assets would be a concrete or absolute rule that is relatively easy to explore on your own in terms of predicting the outcome in a case. However, equitable distribution is an interpretive rule that isn’t so clear-cut.

That means there’s a lot of leeway for judges to look at the household situation when determining what is fair and equitable for the family members. Family law in Pennsylvania requires that the judge in your case consider everything from the length of your marriage to your financial prospects and your current income. They will use that information to decide what would be the best way to divide things between you and your ex.

Every person who looks at the circumstances of a family will have a slightly different interpretation of what is fair and reasonable given the unique details of the family unit. That makes it particularly difficult to predict the exact outcome for divorce cases in places with equitable distribution laws, including Pennsylvania.

Anything you acquired during marriage could wind up split

The courts will look at your income during the marriage and the assets and debts you acquired. From there, they will decide how to most fairly split those possessions. Just because the income is from your job or the account is in your name does not mean you own it as sole and separate property.

Unless you have a prenuptial agreement allocating your income as separate property or protecting other assets, almost everything you acquire throughout the marriage will be subject to the division process by the courts.

Some people prefer to negotiate an asset division solution with their ex rather than leave everything in the hands of the courts. A Pennsylvania family law attorney can improve your chances of a beneficial outcome, as well as expand your understanding of the law and the terminology used in divorce.