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Law Office of Gary R. Swavely, Jr. Blog

Monday, July 27, 2020

Who Gets the Vacation House?

Owning a second home for either personal enjoyment or extra income is becoming increasingly common. The rise of the sharing economy has made it appealing to own a second property in a desirable location, not too far from your primary residence, that you can rent out for extra cash when you are not there to enjoy it.

This set up adds an additional wrinkle when a couple decides to divorce, but Pennsylvania law thankfully provides clear guidance on how to treat second homes during a split.

Gather At The Negotiating Table

The quickest and most efficient way to divide up real estate holdings at the time of divorce is by negotiation. At the Law Office of Gary R. Swavely, Jr., we help our clients figure out their post-divorce plans, determine the best path forward with those goals in mind, then approach the other party with an offer. Sometimes our offer is accepted outright, but often it is just the jumping off point for negotiations.

If an agreement can be reached, the courts will usually rubber stamp it because there is no need to waste judicial resources when everyone involved is satisfied with the plan they developed outside of the courthouse.

Equitable Distribution

If an agreement cannot be reached at the negotiating table, the courts will step in and divide all the real estate owned by the couple that can be defined as marital property according to the state’s equitable distribution law. The court will do the best it can to divide a couple’s assets fairly, which does not always mean equally.

The first step in this process is figuring out what homes, land, and other real estate holdings are actually up for grabs. Marital property only includes property that was acquired by the couple while they were married.

If one spouse owned a piece of real estate before the marriage, or was gifted a piece of property that has been in their family for years, a good argument can be made that that property is not marital property. However, things can get a bit complicated if a substantial amount of money was invested in the property by the couple during their marriage.

Once all of the marital property is identified, the court will work on equitably dividing it. It will consider what each spouse contributed to the marriage and what each will need in the future. In particular, the court will consider each spouse’s income and property during the marriage, the duration of the marriage, each spouse’s age and health, whether a spouse with custody of minor children will continue to live in the family home, and whether one of the parties will be receiving alimony. Remember, the court is not attempting to divide up the property equally. It is attempting to divide things up fairly.

Uncertainty about what the court will consider fair and equitable, is one of the main reasons crafting a negotiated agreement is appealing. The parties have much more control over their future if they can come to an amicable agreement themselves.

Fighting For The Results You Need

Whether you have a beach house or a get-away in the Poconos, you need an experienced divorce attorney at your side when it comes time to negotiate or litigate a divorce. Attorney Gary R. Swavely, Jr. will fight to get you what you consider to be a fair share.

Our team can also help you retitle and protect, or resell your real estate holdings post-divorce.


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