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What happens to real estate when a couple divorces?

A divorce is something few people ever believe they will have to go through at the time they say their vows. Unfortunately, divorce happens all too frequently, and the divorce process is seldom easy.

While divorce often means child custody, child support and alimony issues, it also means dividing up marital property. Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, which means the courts will divide marital property based upon principles of equity -- or what a judge believes is fair. However, this doesn't mean that the property will be divided on a 50/50 basis. Take, for example, the family home and other real estate.

Most married couples are considered "tenants by the entireties." What this means is that the couple has joint ownership of the real estate and neither party can sell the home or other real estate without the other spouse's consent. During a divorce, however, the court can divide the property equitably. The court will consider many factors before determining what is fair -- and the decision made may mean that the real estate is not divided equally.

One factor the court will consider is what each spouse contributed to the purchase of the property. This is not just in economic terms, but can include non-economic contributions, such as child-rearing while the other spouse worked. If the couple and the court do not divide the real estate, then the ownership of the property will change. Both spouses will become "tenants in common." This means that each spouse owns a distinct share of the property.

As you can see, there are many things to consider during a divorce, especially where marital property is concerned. An experienced family law attorney can provide more information.

Source: Pennsylvania Bar Association, "Divorce & Separation," accessed April. 01, 2015

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