Are You Married to Your House?

By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.

When parties to a divorce own their residence, one of the issues in the dissolution proceeding is how to equitably divide the house.   The options include selling the house and splitting the net proceeds in some percentage, or one party keeping the house and providing the other party with an equitable share of the equity from a refinance or receipt of other assets within the marital estate.   The issue, though, begins with whether you want to keep the house.

Many factors go into the decision about whether to keep the house:

  • It can be expensive to take over the mortgage alone;
  • The lawn and home maintenance may be overwhelming;
  • One less change might be desired;
  • The home is in the children’s school parameters;
  • The additional monthly mortgage cost from refinance is not within your budget;
  • Refinance is not an option;
  • The market is bad for selling the particular house;
  • Necessary repairs for listing cannot be agreed upon and/or are not affordable;
  • Tax consequences are daunting;
  • , etc. etc.

This decision should not be taken lightly and should be approached with an open mind.  Many people are absolutely convinced that they need to keep the house for the stability of their minor children.  Yet, when we explore the potential cost of that decision, they see that their children might have even less stability.  The parent may not be as physically available to the children because he/she needs to work more to pay for the house, and may not be as emotionally available to the children because of being consumed with financial stress.   Everything needs to be considered.  Everything also needs to be explored.  A refinance preapproval can be pursued, and that result could guide the answer.  A realtor could be consulted, for guidance on a realistic listing price, necessary repairs, and anticipated time on the market before a sale.  Other homes in the school parameters could be toured, and costs considered.   Information is good.  Options are good.  Don’t just simply decide you have to be married to your house despite the divorce.

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