Who gets to keep the house?
The family home can be one of the most heavily contested items in a divorce. But is it worth fighting for?
To find out, take these 4 steps.
#1) Decide why you want to keep it.
Is it because you feel it will provide stability to the kids? Do you have bad credit, and so fear you’re never going to get another house if you don’t hang on to this one?
Was it your dream house, and you can’t bear the thought of losing it?
Is it because you’ve got a lot of equity in the home, and don’t want to lose it?
These are neither good reasons nor bad reasons to fight for the house. They’re just reasons…and knowing yours will help you prioritize.
#2) Take a good, hard look at your post-divorce financial reality.
Don’t assume you’ll get alimony or child support: look only at your own income.
Can you handle the mortgage on your salary alone? What about homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and maintenance costs? Your dream house can quickly become a nightmare house if you fight tooth and nail to wrest it from your ex only to lose it to the bank.
#3) Understand what you could be giving up.
It doesn’t matter whether you go to trial or settle out of court. You won’t walk away with everything you want.
For example, taking the house may mean a smaller share of cash assets, a smaller alimony payment, or agreeing to some other concession, like paying a greater portion of your debts.
You’ll essentially be buying out your spouse’s share of the house by losing out somewhere else. Could you make more by selling the house and taking half the money instead?
But much depends on what is important to you and your family. Your spouse might want your kids to stay in the house just as much as you do. That might open alternative arrangements, like nesting, or agreements which state you’ll sell the house and split the proceeds once the kids have moved out.
See also: Calculating Spousal Support.
#4) Will you be able to refinance the mortgage?
To keep the house you’ll have to get a new mortgage that’s in your name and your name alone. If you have bad credit or insufficient income it may not be possible for you to keep the house, even if your spouse is willing to give it up.
You might want to talk to both your lender and your lawyer before fighting the fight.
Do your best to put your emotions aside.
The kids won’t feel stable no matter where they live, because their family has been torn apart.
The home might lose its sense of warm comfort when you can’t pay the bills. And other financial concessions may suit you far better in the long run.
Take a deep breath, calm down, and get centered. Then, speak to your lawyer to get unique insights into your specific situation.