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Family law: Divorce may mean tough decisions about the home

Pennsylvania couples have many concerns when they decide to divorce. There is great uncertainty ahead, and adjusting to post-divorce life may be a new experience. One area of comfort is often the family home, and there may be disagreements in court over how to divide the equity in that home. In some family law proceedings, one or the other spouse will want to remain in the home, especially if there are children in the marriage.

Staying in the home may retain a bit of familiarity that could be important in this stressful time, but if the house is part of the marital assets, each spouse is entitled to a fair share of the equity. A house is included in the marital assets when it is purchased during the marriage using joint funds and its maintenance is a shared responsibility. Other circumstances may also impact a determination regarding whether or not a house is a marital asset subject to equitable distribution. One spouse may have the ability to buy out the other's equity, and this will require an agreement regarding its value (typically accomplished by getting an appraisal). Typically, the spouse remaining in the home will then have to refinance to remove the other spouse's name from the mortgage.

If refinancing is out of the question, and it is for many newly-single spouses, the couple may decide to keep the house, perhaps even continuing to live together temporarily. One spouse may move out but continue to assist the other by helping with the mortgage payments. However, more often, the situation does not allow these options, and the couple has no choice but to sell the home, pay off the mortgage and divide the equity.

While these few options are worth considering, there may be even more alternatives for a Pennsylvania couple on the cusp of property division. Many couples have come up with creative ways to avoid selling a home that is important to them for personal reasons. A family law attorney can help an individual evaluate his or her situation and suggest options that will offer the best hope for a positive financial future.

Source: nerdwallet.com, "How to Split Home Value in a Divorce", Holden Lewis, Nov. 22, 2017

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