For many couples, the most challenging aspect of divorce, after accepting its necessity, is the division of their property. The more valuable an asset is, the more likely people are to disagree about what to do with it when they divorce.
Many married couples have the majority of their net worth tied up in their primary residences. Married couples often spend almost a third of their take-home pay every month on their mortgage. Obviously, both spouses usually have an interest in the home and may have a desire to keep it after the divorce, as a result.
Finances and custody can influence property division
Numerous different considerations influence how spouses handle their house in their divorce proceedings and what a judge believes would be an appropriate solution in a litigated divorce. Sometimes, one spouse recognizes that they will not be able to qualify for a mortgage on their own and therefore could not refinance the property, let alone withdraw equity while doing so to compensate the other spouse.
Other times, even those who couldn’t necessarily afford the home on their own will seek to retain it, possibly because they will be the primary caregiver for the children in the family. Some spouses will already have a written agreement talking about the home, while others can reach a mutual settlement agreement before going to court.
In the event that couples cannot agree about what happens to their home, a Pennsylvania family law judge may make a decision. The equitable distribution rules in state law require that judges be fair in their approach to the home. Custody arrangements, income and unpaid contributions to the marital estate can all influence what a judge decides to do with the house.
Keeping the home isn’t always what’s best
There is no guaranteed outcome regarding any particular asset in a divorce unless the couple involved has a pre-existing agreement. Some people have to reach the difficult but realistic decision that giving up their ownership interest is the best option for them. Sometimes, by moving out and accepting equity from the home, an individual can work to quickly rebuild their life following divorce.
The most important thing for people to realize when considering their house and other valuable marital property is that the courts can potentially divide anything acquired during the marriage regardless of whose name is on the ownership paperwork. Learning more about Pennsylvania’s approach to equitable property division may benefit those who are preparing for a divorce.