Is it Possible to Get My Ex Out of the House in a Pennsylvania Divorce?

In the past we’ve done a lot of blogging about two big issues that can arise with marital homes. The first is urging most clients not to fight for the home.
The second is urging most clients not to leave the home until the divorce is finalized.
But what if you have followed this advice? You and your spouse are in the home. You don’t plan on fighting for it, are in fact hoping to sell it and split the proceeds, but at the same time, you’re not in a position to move yet. Or, perhaps you do want it, and are planning on refiancing it if you get it.
Either way, your soon-to-be ex has stopped paying any of the bills. Maybe he or she is squirrelling money away in fear of what’s going to happen, or maybe this is just a vicious maneuver.
Pennsylvania law recognizes this situation happens, and so offers ways to handle it.
The first is to file a Petition for Exclusive Possession. The petition will explain the facts of the situation. Family law judges see this scenario all the time, and unless there are good reasons to do otherwise, will generally order:
  1. That your spouse must begin contributing half the household expenses; or
  2. That your spouse must move out.
If there are children in the house you might also ask your lawyer to file a request for an ex parte temporary child custody order. If the judge grants your request your spouse will not be able to remove the children from the family home after moving out. You will have temporary physical custody, though you and your spouse will typically retain joint legal custody.
Note your final divorce settlement may look nothing like the situation created by either of these orders. If the matter goes to trial the judge retains the right to create an entirely different situation after reviewing all the facts. You and your spouse might also settle on a different outcome later. Physical separation can help tempers cool, leading to a more reasonable discussion.
But temporary orders do give you a bit of an edge. If the temporary situation seems to be working many judges will simply transition those orders into permanent ones. If you don’t really want the house and were hoping to negotiate for some other distribution of property the strategy could backfire. In some cases, it might be a better move, in the long run, to just bite the bullet and pay the bills yourself if you can, since that’s what you’ll be doing anyway with the spouse out of the house. The judge will certainly take that fact into account later as he or she distributes the property.
Choosing the strategy that’s right for you is only possible after a thorough review of your unique circumstances. These issues can get complicated quickly. That’s why it’s important to consult with a family law attorney before making any move at all.
If you’re thinking about getting divorce or have been served with divorce papers, call us today. The initial consultation is free.
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