If I Move Out During a Divorce, Do I Give Up Rights to the House?
Ask an Attorney: Matrimonial & Family Law
Question: My spouse wants a divorce and wants me to move out of the house. If I move out, do I give up rights to the house?
Answer: The short answer to your question is, no. Under Pennsylvania law, all property acquired during the marriage, regardless of how it is titled, is generally considered marital property. This includes your house. Unless there is a court order that says otherwise, both you and your spouse have the right to come and go as you please. If you do leave, your spouse will likely be responsible for paying the mortgage and taxes as well as maintaining the property. You do not give up your claim to a share of the net equity in the house during the property distribution part of the divorce but, it is important to realize that if you move out, your spouse may be able to obtain an order of exclusive possession. This means that he/she would be entitled to live in the house, and prevent you from entering the home, until the divorce is finalized.
In short, if you are planning to leave, make a list of the household contents, take photographs and make copies of important documents like bank statements, retirement benefit statements, passports, and other financial information that could help your attorney assemble a complete picture of your financial affairs as part of the divorce.
Allen I. Tullar, Chair of the Matrimonial and Family Law Group, regularly counsels individuals in divorce, custody and child support matters.