Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, meaning that marital property acquired during marriage gets divided “fairly” by a judge if the parties cannot come to an agreement. Of course, some assets are easier to divide than others. A marital home can be among the most challenging items of property to divide. In most cases, one or both spouses want to keep living in the home.
If one spouse intends to keep a marital home after a divorce, that person will need to pay the other spouse to compensate for their ownership in the property. This means that the person who wants to keep the house needs to determine whether it’s affordable to both pay out the other party and keep making mortgage payments alone.
Even if a party has insufficient cash to pay the other for their share of the house, a payoff can be made in other ways, such as by a transfer of retirement fund assets. For instance, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order can be used to transfer 401(k) money from one spouse to another in a divorce without being subject to early withdrawal penalties. If one spouse intends to have primary child custody and keep the house for the children, another option would be to agree that the non-custodial parent will receive home payment in installments. This could cancel out the child support payments due.
If, at the end of the day, there is no way to afford the home after the divorce, it may be wise to develop a plan for the sale. A family law attorney can help divorcing individuals determine the best course of action with a marital home.