QUESTION: My spouse purchased a home before we were married 10 years ago and the title and mortgage are in his name but now that we’re divorcing I need to know if I’m responsible in any way for the mortgage?

When you and your spouse got married, it made sense to pack up your possessions and move into his home. Now that you are getting divorced, you may have questions about your rights and responsibilities.

  • Can I stay in the marital home?
  • Am I responsible for the mortgage?
  • Can I be compensated for the time, money and effort that I put into the property?

Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state. When you get divorced the marital property must be divided in a way that is fair and equal. If your husband owned the home before the marriage, the property may be considered a premarital asset. This means it is not divided.

There’s some advantage to this. Since you are not the property owner, you are not responsible for property taxes. Nor are you responsible for the cost of maintaining the property. If there is a mortgage on the house, you are not responsible for the mortgage. This can be a very good thing if your spouse owes more than the property is worth.

But, there is an exception. What if the home has increased in value during your marriage? In that case, the increase in value may be considered marital property. The courts will consider the length of the marriage and each party’s contribution and divide the increase in value between the spouses. If the increase in value was due to your decorating and home improvement skills, you may receive a larger share of the increase in value.

This doesn’t mean that you automatically receive a portion of the home. A Pennsylvania property settlement agreement considers all marital property. It may be in your best interest to allow your ex to buy your share in cash, retirement funds or investments.

What if your ex doesn’t want the home, but you and the children would prefer to stay? In that case, you have the option of buying out his share of the house with cash or property. You will become responsible for the mortgage and all costs associated with the home.

If you don’t think your Philadelphia divorce agreement is fair and equitable, consult an attorney. To schedule an appointment, call Petrelli Previtera at 215-523-6900.