December 11, 2015

Premarital Real Estate and Divorce

There are divorce cases in which one or both parties owned premarital real estate. Premarital real estate is real property owned by one or another of the spouses before the couple married. As a general rule, premarital assets are not subject to division in divorce proceedings. However, this general rule can get tested in a case that includes premarital real estate.

Equitable Division Standard

Pennsylvania is what is known as an equitable division state when it comes to dealing with property and debts in divorce. What this means is that assets and debts accumulated during a marriage are divided between the parties to a divorce case in a fair and equitable manner. This does not mean that each party will get an equal share of assets and debts. The division or distribution depends upon the unique facts and circumstances of a particular divorce case.

Problems with Premarital Real Estate

One primary problem area involving premarital real estate in divorce is real property that has an outstanding mortgage when the marriage commences. Again, the general rule is that premarital real estate is not subject to division in a divorce case. In other words, the person who owned premarital real estate before the marriage keeps that property in the aftermath of a divorce. However, this general rule presumes that the real estate was paid off before the marriage commences. No marital funds were used to make mortgage payments during the term of the marriage.

If marital funds are used to make mortgage payments during the course of the marriage, the status of the property as being exclusively a premarital asset changes. The real estate can become subject to division in a divorce case, at least to some degree.

The equity interest in the real estate at the date a couple weds would be considered a premarital asset and likely would remain in the possession of the person who brought the real estate into the marriage. However, the other spouse would be able to make a claim for an equitable share of the real estate’s value based on mortgage payments made during the course of the marriage.

The complexity of issues such as premarital real estate underscores the need for a person seeking a divorce to retain a qualified attorney. An experienced divorce lawyer is best able to navigate the division of assets and debts in a Pennsylvania divorce case.