Divorce and the Family Home
The family home is often considered a metaphor for the family itself. However, during a divorce, the marriage may vanish, but the home stays as a valuable asset — both for financial security and for the practical concern of having a place to live. Pennsylvania courts decide which spouse gets the home, both while the spouses are litigating the divorce and after the equitable distribution is made.
Family Home During a Pennsylvania Divorce
If you’re terminating your marriage, you might be concerned about what will happen to your home and properties. Our experienced divorce lawyers at Ciccarelli Law Offices will help you get through these tough times while maintaining your short and long term interests.
Call (610) 692-8700 or send an online message for a free consultation so we can act as soon as possible. We are based in West Chester PA and serve clients throughout Chester County, Lancaster County and suburban Philadelphia including West Chester, Kennett Square, Oxford, Avondale, Landenberg, West Grove, Paoli, Malvern, Downingtown, Coatesville, Exton, Parkesburg, Berwyn and Devon. We have convenient meeting locations in Lancaster, Philadelphia, Plymouth Meeting, Kennett Square, Malvern, Springfield, King of Prussia, and Radnor. Our family lawyers serve those with immediate legal needs in Chester County, Montgomery County, Delaware County and Lancaster County.
Pennsylvania Divorce and the Marital Residence
- Family Property During the Divorce Litigation Process
- The Home During Equitable Distribution in Pennsylvania
Family Property During the Divorce Litigation Process
Who gets what in a divorce is usually one of the primary concerns during this often complex process. Between the time when divorce is filed and when the estate is divided, though, the issue of where each spouse lives must be resolved for the mean time. Unless they are already residing apart, there is usually a family home where the couple lives. This is referred to in the law as both the “family home” and the “marital residence.”
The court may award the home to one or both spouses while the divorce is being litigated. The judge is unlikely to give the home to both unless both spouses consent. That spouse may live in the home during the litigation. However, the home is not permanently his or hers, and the court may decide to award the home to the other spouse once equitable distribution is determined.
The court may use a variety of factors when determining who should get the house, all of which are laid out in Pennsylvania Statutes Title 23, Section 3502. Those factors include:
- The length of the marriage.
- The age of the spouses.
- The health of the spouses.
- The estate of the spouses.
- Sources of income for each spouse.
- The economic circumstances of each party at the time.
- Whether either party is custodian to any children.
The court may use any of these factors in its reasoning. It could, for example, decide that, since Spouse A is in poor health and the marital residence is near a hospital, that Spouse A should get the house. It could decide that, since Spouse B will serve as custodian to school-aged children, Spouse B should get the home so the children can attend the same school. Or it could decided that, since Spouse A makes more money, that it is easier for Spouse A to rent a suitable apartment, and therefore Spouse B should get the home.
The court, however, cannot consider fault when deciding who gets the home. Many people may think “Spouse A walked out on the marriage, so Spouse A walked out of the home, too,” and believe that they should be awarded the home. However, the court is expressly forbidden by law from taking fault into account.
The Home During Equitable Distribution in Pennsylvania
The same factors used to determine which spouse gets the home during the litigation are used in determining who permanently gets to keep the home once distribution is determined. However, if one of the spouses owned the home before the marriage, then it is not marital property. Anything not marital property is separate property belonging to the spouse who owns it.
One of the factors in determining an asset is who contributed the most to that asset, including the contributions as a homemaker. If you spent much of your time improving the house and making it a better place, your divorce lawyer could use that to argue why you should be awarded the home.
Working With an Attorney to Keep Your House After a Divorce
You may be able to live in the family home while litigating for your divorce. Our Chester County divorce lawyers are experienced in complex division of marital asset cases can help you fight to stay at the home.
Call us today at (610) 692-8700 set up a free consultation to discuss your situation with an experienced divorce attorney from our firm. We proudly serve residents of Coatesville, Phoenixville, Berwyn, Willow Street, Lancaster, Ephrata, Newtown Square, Glen Mills, Media, Swarthmore, Radnor, Greater Philadelphia, and nearby towns.