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I packed my bags, left my husband and the house. Did I hurt my changes of being able to keep the house?

Thorndale, PA |

About a month ago, I decided that I didn't want to be married to my husband anymore. I packed all of my clothes, took the dogs and went to my mom's. I still want to keep the house though. But, now he is staying in it and refusing to move. I can't live in the same house as him. He says that I own half and are more than welcome to share until the divorce agreement is final. I just can't live under the same roof as him anymore, so don't want to move back until he is gone.
There are no children and we both can afford the house on our own. All things being equal, will my husband be able to keep the house because I am the one that decided to leave? Did I hurt my chances of keeping the house by moving my items?

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Attorney answers 3


Let me see if I have this straight. You abandoned the house. But, you want the house.

Division of marital assets is subject to a number of factors set out in the divorce statutes. Each state has its own. No one asset can be subjected to analysis in isolation without viewing all of the assets that both of you own, and without understanding the full context of the marriage including but not limited to your stations in life, the lifestyles to which you are accustomed, your educational and employment histories, your current abilities to support yourselves, and many other circumstances.

This answer is provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided in an office consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction, with experience in the area of law in which your concern lies.


In Pennsylvania, the process for dividing legal assets and debts is called equitable distribution. In that process, the value of all marital assets and the amount of all legal debt is considered when determining which spouse will be entitled to which asset or which spouse is required to pay which debt. Start with listing all marital assets and what you believe is their fair market values. Next, make a listing of all marital debts and their amount. Then, you should start placing assets & their values and debts and their amounts into two separate columns - one column for you and one for your spouse. First, list the assets in each spouse's column that you believe there will be an agreement regarding which spouse will keep. Then, list the debts on each spouse's column that you believe each spouse will agree to keep. If you are keeping an asset, you generally keep the debt associated with that asset. Further, if a debt was incurred solely in the name of one spouse generally that spouse wants some measure of control over payment of that debt so that their credit is not impacted when the other spouse is supposed to but doesn't pay the debt.

We often see cases that we call the "pension and house" cases. In other words, the two largest assets in the marriage is one spouse's pension and the marital home. In many circumstances, one spouse ends up keeping the pension while the other keeps the home.

In any case, at the end of the columns their should be a fairly equal division of both the marital assets and marital debts unless one spouse is entitled to a greater division of the assets because of one of the enumerated factors for the division of assets and debts that are listed in the PA Divorce Code.

If one spouse ends up with too many assets or too much debt on their side of the column, the other spouse will have to trade assets, provide a cash payment, or take other steps to end up with a fair distribution.

If truly "all things being equal" in the distribution happens, the spouse last occupying the residence may have a better chance of keeping the home. Perhaps the best advice for you is to start getting all documents together to prove the value of assets and the amount of debts and take those documents to an experienced Pennsylvania family law attorney for a consultation on your specific questions and goals.


Since you have left the house and set up residence elsewhere, you could have what is called "exlsuiive possession" of the house pending a divorce. As to whether he gets the house in the divorce will depend on what other assets and debt there are and the factors set forth in the divorce code as to how PA divides property. He may get first choice to stay in the house if he can buy you out and refinance to remove your name from the mortgage. I have several office locations if you want a consultation.