Advances on Property Distribution in Divorce


When Donald Sterling’s alleged mistress taped him making disparaging remarks about African Americans, it was just the beginning of the billionaire’s legal troubles. It wasn’t long before his wife of 60 years sued him for divorce, and a judge ultimately awarded to Shelly Sterling nearly $3 million she claimed was secretly spent buying her ex-husband’s mistress a house, cars and other luxury gifts—money she contended was marital property from their decades of marriage.

Although most divorces don’t involve marital property in the billions of dollars, the issue of how marital property is divided can always be a source of contention. In Pennsylvania, the law says marital misconduct cannot be considered in the distribution of assets. That means that just because a spouse has an affair, that fact cannot be used to “punish” him or her when determining who gets what.

That does not mean, however, that money spent during the course of an extramarital affair cannot be recouped by the other spouse.

In Pennsylvania divorces, the court can impose a constructive trust on property improperly transferred from the marital estate to a third party or can consider the value of property transferred to be an advance on the transferring spouse’s share of the marital estate. One of the factors in Pennsylvania’s Divorce Code regarding the division of marital property allows a court to consider the dissipation of marital assets by one spouse.

That means a spouse who spends money on an extramarital affair could find that their share of equitable distribution is less since the Court could hold that they already spent part of their distribution on or with their new significant other.

Of course, every marriage and divorce is different, which is why we recommend you consult with us before getting too far along into the divorce process. We can ensure that what you are due is protected so that you can move forward with your life when the final papers are signed. Contact us today.

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