We are delighted to announce that our physical office is re-opening to our existing and new clients. To provide safety to both our clients and staff, we are adapting the CDC guidelines for social distancing while we are in the yellow phase. Rest assured, that we have and will continue to regularly clean all areas of the office especially the high-traffic areas. All attorneys and staff will have their temperature taken daily and will be wearing masks when interacting with clients. Any attorneys and staff with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will work remotely. They will then be required to follow CDCrecommended steps, including not returning to work until the CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation are met.

As the health and safety of our clients and their families is our top priority, we are asking that our clients follow the procedures below during the yellow phase:

  1. Upon entering the building, we ask that all persons wash their hands or hand-sanitize. We will be providing access to soap, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
  2. We will also be taking temperatures with non-contact thermometers upon entering the office.
  3. Our office is set-up to comply with social distancing of six feet. In the conference and mediation rooms we are asking that each person sit a minimum of one chair apart from attorneys and/or staff at all times.
  4. Masks are available and will be provided open request.
  5. Teleconferences Zoom meetings, and FaceTime are available in lieu of inperson meetings if requested.
  6. We will continue to have the drop-box available for delivery of documents.

In the event that anyone is sick or have been exposed to COVID-19, we ask that you reschedule your appointment or utilize the electronic forums listed above.

As each county determines the procedures that will be followed, please ask your attorney of the specific procedures regarding the county in which your case in pending.

Please note that we will also continue to accommodate the needs of new clients, who are welcome, and as always we encourage and appreciate referrals. During this uncertain and unprecedented time, please stay safe and remember that Sweeney Law Office, LLC will remain by your side for all of your family’s legal needs. We ask that you have patience during this challenging time.

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Should I let my spouse keep the house?

Allowing a spouse to keep a marital home during a divorce in Pennsylvania might not always be the wisest decision unless they can get a new, solo mortgage.

When getting divorced, it is not uncommon for at least one partner to want to keep the family home. This is understandable and can be an especially big draw for families in Pennsylvania with young children still at home. However, it is important that divorcing spouses do not let emotions make the decision about what to do with a house. Allowing one person to keep a marital home is a major financial decision.

The trap of the joint mortgage

As explained by Bankrate, even if a couple is no longer married, both persons will remain financially liable for an existing joint mortgage. This can be the case even if one person no longer lives in the home and even if the divorce decree indicates that one person is supposed to pay the mortgage.

For this reason, if one spouse is going to keep the house, that person should obtain a new mortgage in their name only. This is the only way to eliminate the financial responsibility of the other party.

A newly divorced person might find that their credit score and their income has declined due to their divorce. This could make it hard for them to be approved for a new home mortgage. Some people who will receive alimony may claim that as income to help their chances of getting a new loan.

A note about quit claim deeds

If one person is able to successfully obtain the new mortgage, they will then want to have their former spouse sign a quit claim deed relinquishing their interest in the home.

Regarding quit claim deeds, it should not be assumed that signing this and retaining an existing joint mortgage can be a way of eliminating financial responsibility. Time Money notes that lenders are very clear that mortgages and houses are two separate things. Therefore, a person who is named on a loan can still be responsible for payments even if they have no ownership in the property.

Other potential solutions

MortgageLoan.com indicates that it might be possible for divorce decrees to stipulate that one person should make mortgage payments as part of a spousal support agreement. This, however, should be carefully reviewed by an attorney especially in light of the new tax law that went into effect on January 1, 2019. This law eliminates the tax deduction for people paying alimony and may have a major impact on divorce settlements that would have previously included alimony payments.

Because of the serious financial consequences associated with missed mortgage payments, divorcing spouses in Pennsylvania should always consult with a lawyer before making any agreements about their homes.