Resolving Home Ownership Disputes in Your Divorce

When you’re getting divorced, issues of property division and who owns what can get very combative very quickly, and that can be especially true for your house.  Decisions need to be made about who will stay and who will go, or whether it’s best for the house to just be sold.  In addition to the emotional attachment you have to your “home,” there are also questions of what is “fair.” This is especially true in adversarial divorces where only one spouse contributed to the purchase and mortgage payments of the marital home. Things get even more complicated if the home was purchased by one spouse prior to the marriage. It’s entirely understandable for the spouse who was the original owner – or who provided the funding for the marital home – to object to distributing any part of property’s value to the other spouse.  If you’ve found yourself in a situation like this, here’s what you need to know.

Under Pennsylvania law, anything that is purchased during your marriage is considered marital property, no matter which of the two of you actually paid for it and regardless of whose name it was put into. If you are the one who provided all the funds, you should steel yourself now for the property division process to feel extremely unfair, as your soon-to-be-ex will be legally entitled to some portion of the equity in the property, whether they invested a penny or not. The same is true for any other forms of property, including, but not limited to, a 401(k) plan, stocks, retirement incentives, pension plans, bank accounts, investments, vehicles, ect.  People have even been forced to split airline frequent flyer miles that only one spouse earned because of work travel that occurred during the marriage.

If, on the other hand, the marital home was purchased prior to the marriage and is titled in only one spouse’s name, then that spouse is legally entitled to retain it, though the other spouse will be entitled to a portion of any increase in value that occurred over the course of the marriage. This is not only true for real estate, but all other forms of property that may have increased in value during the marriage.  In certain situations, you may be able to offset your assets against any assets that your spouse may have owned prior to, or which increased in value during, your marriage.

One way to avoid the issues that arise during property division is to obtain a well-crafted prenuptial agreement prior to the marriage that specifically addresses how any property is divided the event of a divorce. As difficult and uncomfortable it may feel to broach the subject of a prenuptial agreement with your fiancé, not to mention feeling downright unromantic, having one often makes things far easier on both spouses in the long run.

If you are considering a low cost divorce in PA or are in the midst of one and you need advice, contact our experienced attorneys today to set up a time to talk.