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How should I deal with the family home in my divorce?

It’s easy to get tied up in the emotions of a divorce. You might be heartbroken about severing your ties with your spouse or losing time with your children. You might be angry at how the divorce came about or the tactics that your spouse is using to try to dissolve the marriage. While all of this is understandable, far too often these emotions drive the decisions that individuals make during the divorce process. This is a mistake that can have severe ramifications in both the short and long-term. Therefore, before proceeding with your divorce, you need to try to set your emotions aside and carefully consider the issues at hand and how best to approach them.

One of the first things to recognize is that divorce is a big financial transaction. All of your assets and debts will need to be divided in a way that is fair, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything gets split in half. In most cases, the parties negotiate or litigate over certain assets that they want, which means that they may have to give when it comes to other assets and debts.

One major asset that has to be addressed is the family home. Some people have emotional attachment to the family home, especially if they lived there for a significant period of time, made improvements to the residence, and raised their children there. But you have to ask yourself if fighting for the family home in your divorce is the right move. To do so, you need to consider your options.

  • Buy the house: If you really want to keep the house, then one option is to simply buyout your spouse. This will require you to have a lot of cash on hand or take over the mortgage on your own, which is a big financial commitment. Before pursuing this option, you need to make sure that you’re able to maintain mortgage payments and maintenance without your spouse’s income to help out.
  • Utilize other assets to acquire the home: If your home is paid off or nearly paid off, then you might be able to exchange other assets for the home. This might mean giving up a retirement or a larger chunk of other savings, but it could provide you with the stability you need while keeping a large asset that has significant sentimental value. Again, though, make sure you understand the costs associated with keeping and maintaining the home on your own.
  • Sell the home to your spouse: If you simply want out of the obligations associated with the family home, you might ask your spouse to assume the mortgage or otherwise buy you out. Make sure you know what you’re giving up in terms of equity so that you can negotiate accordingly.
  • Ask for other assets in exchange for the home: Again, if the home is paid off or nearly paid off, you might have interests other than retaining the residence. If this is the case, then you might have a great opportunity to negotiate for other assets that better suit your needs. This option might leave you with a robust amount of assets to start the next chapter of your life.
  • Sell the house to a third-party: This is a popular option because it allows the couple to cleanly separate from each other while evenly splitting any proceeds that come from the sale. Be sure to assess the housing market before selling, though, so that you’re not selling at a time that puts you at a financial disadvantage, if possible.
  • Continue to jointly own the home: This might sound strange, but jointly owning the home can be a great option. It allows you to continue to build equity and split maintenance costs with your spouse. You also have a lot of options when it comes to how to handle the house. You can rent it out, for example, or you rotate which parent resides in the home in an attempt to provide your children with a greater sense of stability and routine. Just be cognizant of the additional costs you’ll face with this option as you’ll likely have to secure a second residence.

There are a lot of ways to handle the family home in a divorce, and this is just one small piece of the marriage dissolution puzzle that you’ll have to figure out. If you allow your emotions to get the best of you, then you might end up losing out on assets that are much needed to secure a better future for yourself. Therefore, when analyzing your situation and approaching your divorce, it might be helpful to have the assistance of a more objective legal professional who can still fight for what you need and deserve.