“We only have the house, so my divorce should be simple, right?” asks many of our clients. Or, “I bought the house before the marriage, so there is no marital property, correct?” In Pennsylvania, any appreciation on a premarital home during the marriage constitutes a marital asset and thus is subject to a property division in a divorce case. 23 Pa.C.S. § 3501. Each marital asset should be properly appraised. If you own the house, you probably would not want it valued artificially high, as you will likely be paying your approximately half its appreciation value. If you are the spouse receiving payment, you would not want the house valued artificially low, as the low figure translates into less of a payment for you. But do you know that there are at least three methods of appraising real estate, whether that is your marital home or your rental properties? Which one is the most accurate and is in your best interests to use? If your spouse’s attorney is representing your spouse’s interest, who is watching your back?
What if your sneaky spouse has secretly sold the house after you separated? Will you ever see the money? Or perhaps worse, what if your spouse remained in the house after you separated and ruined this asset by not paying the mortgage and allowing your marital home to go into foreclosure: is all lost for you now? Maybe your angry spouse changed the locks on the house and is threatening to call the police if you ever come close. Have you just waived all of your rights to the marital home? An experienced law firm like ours will answer these questions, directly and honestly. Know that you have options.
After the value of your marital home and rental properties have been established, what portion of that value is your spouse entitled to? Should that spouse even get anything if he or she committed adultery or other marital misconduct such as physical or psychological abuse? In Pennsylvania, your marital estate is divided equitably (i.e. fairly but not necessarily 50/50) and without regard to any marital misconduct. There is a statutory list of extensive factors that the court will consider to arrive at that equitable split. 23 Pa.S.C. § 3502.
Is there anything else that may impact your equitable division? For example, your spouse remains in and enjoys the house exclusively after your separation. The spouse out of possession must be compensated for his or her rights and interests in the marital property. Schmidt v. Krug, 624 A.2d 183 (Pa. Super. 1993); Trembach v. Trembach, 615 A.2d 33, 37 (Pa. Super. 1992); Hutnik v. Hutnik, 535 A.2d 151, 154 (Pa. Super. 1987). In addition, the tax credit that your spouse receives for claiming part of the house a home office matters now. What is the future of the residential or commercial rental that is part of your marital estate? You used your premarital money to put a down payment on the marital home and “I’m getting my cash back in this divorce,” you hope. You might not be aware that a non-marital asset sufficiently commingled with a marital one may be viewed as being terminated. Given these considerations, getting divorced may not be that simple after all.
Are any of the following issues on your divorce plate:
- Can I be awarded my house over my spouse’s objections and before my divorce is final?
- My husband and I have accumulated real estate all over the map; “should I file for a property division in every state where these assets are?
- I want to sell our marital home, but my spouse is on “the war path” and will never agree.
- The first level of our marital townhome is rented to my spouse’s private practice; who is going to become the landlord after the divorce?
- I am not on the deed and/or mortgage for our marital home, but I want the house after the divorce.
Call us before you panic. Our Pittsburgh-based law firm has been in business for over 15 years, has over 30 years of combined legal experience, and has represented over 1,000 clients in a wide breadth of complex family law cases. We are astutely aware of the matters that come up in these cases and the valid concerns that you have. Not only are we diligent in securing accurate appraisals of real estate, an award of exclusive possession of the marital residence, and an order escrowing the sale proceeds to protect them from dissipation, but we pursue the option that best serves our client’s interests. Benefit from our vast knowledge to secure your financial future.