Deciding what to do with the family home during a divorce is an emotional and complex decision. If you own a home, you may be thinking about keeping it, if you can afford to do so. This is especially common when the house is your children’s childhood home.
This is an emotional decision that shouldn’t be made alone. Here are four key factors to think through:
First, if this is your kids’ childhood home and you stay in the home while your spouse moves out, it could unintentionally send the message that you are now the “main parent.” Your children may assume the parent who kept the house is more stable or permanent. Consider how this living arrangement might influence their feelings about the divorce and their other parent. You may not wish to encourage this dynamic, but there it is. What lessons will your children take from this arrangement?
Second, what if your ex wants the house, too? Are you ready for a fight? Battling over the house could turn into an ugly dispute. You may decide selling the home and splitting proceeds is a cleaner break.
What refinancing the house would mean for you
As long as your ex is on the mortgage, they remain financially responsible for the home. If you don’t pay your mortgage, your ex would have to. In order to prevent this, your ex will probably demand that you refinance the house.
If you required your spouse’s income to qualify for the original mortgage, you may not be approved to refinance on your own. Even if you do qualify, you could get less favorable loan terms.
Consider the legal implications
In most cases, the home, and its equity are shared assets that must be divided equitably. If you get the house, your ex will typically get an asset of equal value, or you’ll need to buy out their share.
Do you have another comparable asset your ex can take? If not, are you prepared to come up with the cash to purchase their equity?
Do you understand all the costs of homeownership?
Owning a home alone means paying the mortgage, utilities, taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs yourself. You might even have to pay for mortgage insurance.
What a lot of people forget about is the cost of maintenance. You may need to set aside money every month for a maintenance fund. There may be large, costly projects ahead, such as a new roof that probably won’t be covered by insurance. Surprise repairs like a new roof or HVAC system can be expensive.
Before deciding to keep the house, realistically assess whether you can cover all these expenses now and in the future.
If dividing assets like a shared home, be sure to get experienced legal advice. Our compassionate attorneys will help protect your interests so you can make the best decision for your family.