Since their home is typically a couple’s largest financial asset (and biggest expense), it’s no surprise that deciding what to do with that big asset can be a big bone of contention between divorcing spouses. When deciding whether to keep or sell the marital home, you need to look at things through three distinct lenses: financial, emotional, and legal.
Financial. The main concern is whether you can actually afford to stay in your house after a divorce. You not only need to pay the mortgage every month, you also have to pay for all the utilities, property taxes, maintenance, and upkeep. To help you decide if keeping your house is an affordable option, you need to understand all the real costs to stay. Be sure to consider the condition of your home — you can get a good idea by having a home inspection done by a professional — as it will determine if you would have to budget for large repairs in the near future.
You also need to weigh whether moving will reduce your monthly expenses enough to make it worth the cost. The biggest savings typically come from moving somewhere with lower mortgage payments and property taxes. You’ll need to balance those savings against the costs of moving — real estate agent commissions, legal fees, title fees, and moving expenses.
In addition, you’ll need to weigh what you will be giving up to keep the house, since you ex will need to be compensated for his or her share of the home’s equity in the divorce settlement. Trading other marital assets for keeping the house may not be worth it if that trade leaves you with no retirement savings or cash.
Emotional. Your feelings are certainly valid in the decision-making process about keeping your home. It may hold very happy and special memories for you, or you may want to stay in the same neighborhood so your kids don’t have to change schools or miss their friends. If you have a huge emotional attachment to your home and are splitting custody with your ex, you may want to consider “nesting,” where the children always stay and the parents come and go. While there are financial factors to consider with this approach, it may work for you for a year or two if your kids are really young or about to leave for college.
Legal. While the decision to keep your house will probably rest more on the financial and emotional factors, you do need to get experienced legal advice about your rights from your attorney. You and your lawyer will probably discuss the usual options for the home: selling it and splitting the proceeds, a buyout by one of the spouses, or keeping it for now and selling it at a later date. You and your ex’s decision about the disposition of your home will be part of the final divorce agreement that must be approved by the court, so be sure you get your attorney’s input before agreeing to anything.
When you are faced with an important life decision regarding a key family relationship, the advice and assistance of an experienced family law attorney often proves crucial to your understanding of the issues involved and your satisfaction with the ultimate outcome of your family law matter. Contact us today for your free consultation.