Home Alone: Divorce And The Family Home

Homes are a tricky subject when it comes to divorce. Few items are more valuable and few more filled with emotions than the place your family has called "home" for the recent past.

Can You Agree?

Almost any aspect of divorce can become simpler if both parties can agree upon it. If you know you have no interest in the home, be prepared to ask for other property instead. If neither of you wants it, agree to place it on the market, and decide who gets any proceeds after paying off the mortgage. If either of you wants to buy another home in the future, take care when dealing with missed mortgage payments, foreclosures, refinancing to remove one person from the mortgage, and more. For example, if the housing market in your area is not exactly hot right now, you might form an agreement that one of you will reside in the home for the time being, and you will explore placing the home on the market later. Be sure you know who is responsible for paying all the costs associated with the home – the mortgage, the property taxes, the homeowners' insurance, the upkeep and maintenance, etc.

Should You Ask for the Home?

Be sure you want the home for the right reasons. Revenge, spite, anger, and other negative emotions are not useful when it comes to logical matters like finances. Once you remove the emotions from the equation, you can evaluate your situation based on sound financial concepts. You should know whether or not you can actually afford to maintain the home and pay all associated costs of home ownership before you decide.

When You Cannot Agree

If you both end up wanting the home, you will have a major issue to resolve before you can be divorced. Divorce mediation might allow you to come to a decision, but if you leave it up to the judge, the entire matter will be out of your hands. The way the judge decides depends on a number of factors, such as:

  • Community property or equitable distribution – Most states use the equitable distribution model to decide on property matters regardless of the model. In many cases, the judge will give the family home to one party and order that the receiving party give up an equivalent amount in other property (or take on a greater share of the debt load). The judge may also order the home sold and the proceeds split.
  • Children – Judges are more like to award the home to the parent who has physical custody of minor children. The courts place a high priority on their well-being and the security and familiarity of their home and neighborhood are important toward that goal.

Speak to a divorce attorney, like Scott & Scott, PC, to learn more about what to do with the family home during a divorce.