Separation: Losing the House

A common property division (or equitable distribution) question is whether I’ll lose the house if I leave it. The scenario is as follows. The married parties are still living together, but one of them wants to separate and leave the house (the marital residence). For the sake of this example, suppose the wife wants to leave. She is afraid that, by doing so, she will lose her marital interest in the house. She will not.

A Pennsylvania divorce court will typically divide the property that existed when the parties separated. If the parties own a house, two cars, some furniture, and a pension when they separate, these are the assets the court usually divides. If you have been separated for several years, the court will still usually look back at what property existed when the parties separated. Thus, leaving the house at separation does not remove it from the marital estate.

The practical effect of leaving the house, however, is that (in my example) the husband is more likely to get the house from the final property division. He continued residing there after wife left it. But, he is usually required to pay wife her share of its value (or give her another asset of equal value.)

If you want some clarity on how your property division is likely to play out, you are welcome to contact our firm.


Written by Attorney Andrew Glasgow