For most couples seeking a divorce, the house is their most valuable asset. One or both of them may be emotionally attached to the house. What I tell my clients from the beginning is that there are three options:
- The husband gets the house.
- The wife gets the house.
- They sell the house and divide the equity.
- It is important to understand why one party wants to stay in the house.
- Is it emotional issues causing that desire?
- Is it because that is where the children were born or raised?
- Is this their first house?
There are generally a lot of emotional connections to the house, but you can make another connection to a new affordable home. I try to help both parties to understand what is involved if one party insists on keeping the house and the benefit of selling it and dividing the equity.
Can the Party Who Wants the House Afford to Keep It?
First Issue: If you or your spouse insists that for them keeping the house is the only option, we need to determine if you or they can afford the house after the divorce. Meeting with a mortgage loan officer at a bank is the first step. I want my clients to meet with a loan officer early in the divorce process to see if you can qualify for a mortgage loan on your current home. If you cannot qualify, there is no sense in spending money on attorney fees fighting for a house that you cannot afford. I also want to know if the other party that wants to retain the home will they qualify to ensure that, as my client, you get your part of the equity out of the house.
Second Issue: Even if the party can qualify for a loan in his or her own name and after removing the name of the other party from the deed, what about maintenance and upkeep? Can a new budget accommodate the new loan payment and cost of maintaining the home? Keeping the house but not being able to afford to maintain can make your post-divorce life miserable. Ultimately, your goal for post-divorce should be to have a life that allows you to successfully move forward without an economic millstone around your neck.
Selling the House and Dividing the Equity
The best resolution is often to sell the house and divide the equity. This should be decided early in the divorce process, so the house can get on the market as quickly as possible. The couple may agree on the value of the home, but getting a professional appraisal is best.
Additionally, we do not want the house to go into foreclosure status, so the mortgage payments and upkeep must continue until the asset is sold. We also must decide on what realtor to use. If the parties cannot agree on these simple solutions, we will get the court involved.
For assistance in making this major financial decision, and assistance in moving on to a new chapter of your life, contact Schmitt Law, PLLC to schedule an appointment.