When a divorce has been filed, one of the biggest questions is often who will get the family home. Pennsylvania operates on an equitable distribution model, which means that the court will divide all assets and income earned during the marriage between the spouses. Equitable distribution is not necessarily equal, as the court will take into consideration other factors bearing on each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, economic and otherwise.
The family home may present issues that warrant special handling. There are two basic ways to deal with this major asset:
An important factor a court may consider in deciding whether one spouse should retain ownership or possession of the marital home is the financial impact of forcing a sale. This includes analysis of the real estate market and the potential expenses and tax implications to both parties. Selling a home when the market is depressed or when the property is heavily mortgaged may result in a severe loss.
Another factor is whether young children of the marriage would have their lives disrupted if the property is sold. Exercising its role as protector of the children’s best interests, the court may order that the parent with primary custody be allowed to keep the home. That spouse essentially buys out the other’s interest, refinancing the existing mortgage in their own name. The other spouse’s share of equitable distribution is increased correspondingly based on the net value of the real estate.
Another solution is to allow the spouse with primary custody to have possession of the home until the children reach majority age or finish college. The property may remain jointly owned until that eventuality, when it can be sold. The existing mortgage may stay in place until it is paid off or the home is sold. Upon the sale, the net proceeds are divided.
Whichever route is chosen by the parties or by the court, the marital home’s value will be considered as part of the inventory of assets and debts to be included in equitable distribution. The division of property will take into consideration such factors as the length of the marriage, the spouses’ standard of living during the marriage and each spouse’s age, health, independent financial resources and ability to earn a living.
Divorce can be a complicated process, especially when it comes to division of assets. One of the skilled attorneys at Feldstein Grinberg Lang & McKee, P.C. in Pittsburgh can work to help ensure that your assets are fairly distributed. Call 412-301-7395 or contact us online to see how we can help.