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DIVORCE: WHAT ABOUT THE FAMILY HOME?

Posted by Michelle Dellino | Nov 07, 2016 | 0 Comments

By nature, divorce is difficult and sad, usually affecting multiple parties in devastating ways. There are so many aspects of life that are impacted by divorce, and a plethora of painful emotions.

Among the affected aspects of life is the matter of living arrangements. For many families, it is more than just sorting out who lives where. Determining what to do with the family home can be an immense, emotional challenge.

For most families, the family home is the biggest asset. It is often the most valuable item for consideration, both financially and sentimentally.

The family home may hold countless memories, significant milestones for the children, holiday gatherings, and immeasurable sentimental value. These memories may feel bittersweet at the time of divorce, but making a careful decision about what to do with the home is essential. Our family law attorneys can help you decide the best way to leverage your most valuable asset.

Some of the possible scenarios are as follows, but we understand that each situation is unique. Financial and logistical considerations must be weighed, alongside the emotional.

1 – Selling the house:   This may seem like the cleanest and fairest way to go for many families both logistically and emotionally. There are expenses to be considered, including potential capital gains owed and brokers' commissions. These will generally be shared between the divorcing spouses. Otherwise, any earnings from the sale can be split and routed to each spouse's separate account.

2 – One spouse keeps the house:  One spouse may be in a position financially where it is in their best interest to keep the house. They may need to buy out their ex and they will need to refinance the moArtgage in their own name. The amount of the buy-out can be negotiated, but should be based on an appraisal agreed upon by both parties. If you are buying-out a spouse or agreeing to a buy-out, be sure you are being advised appropriately by a family law attorney and a financial planner.

3 – The children keep the house:Some divorcing spouses are attempting an approach called “nesting”, where the children stay in the family home and the divorced spouses come and go. Couples might rent separate apartments for their time away from the home, or they might rent a place together, depending on the relationship and the arrangement. The goal is to provide stability for the children.

Financially, there is no home sale to contend with, but there are likely financial considerations in terms of where the off-duty parents are staying. Divorcing couples are already contending with other layers of financial and emotional discord, and this may provide an opportunity to hold off on selling the home until the dust settles.

Emotionally, this is a complicated way to go. The Wall Street Journal published an article that describes this practice and many of the implications. The article notes that mental health providers caution against this arrangement, suggesting that this is a time for divorcing spouses to establish their own new lives and routines, and in this scenario their privacy is thwarted. This makes it very challenging for divorcees to move on, and it may be ultimately more confusing and upsetting for the children. Please see the WSJ article for a more thorough analysis.

4 – Both spouses keep the house:  Another scenario involves divorcing spouses maintaining the home as a joint asset. They may decide to put it up for rent, one spouse may continue residing in the home as part of the financial agreement, or it may sit empty. This is a challenging scenario and success is largely dependent upon the divorcing couple's relationship. You would have to continue to depend upon and trust your ex-spouse to some degree, in order to remain so attached to them financially post-divorce.

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Each individual situation is unique and complex in its own way and there really is no right answer. As you are flooded with emotions and trying to separate these emotions to make smart financial decisions, we urge you to not try and tackle this alone.

It is essential that you work with a skilled, knowledgeable family law attorney during this time, who will advocate for your best interests and for a division of assets that you feel is equitable. Our attorneys are very well experienced in this area and we are here to help. Please contact us for a consultation.

About the Author

Michelle Dellino

Michelle Dellino is the Managing Attorney of Dellino Law Group. She believes there is a solution to every problem. Her practice focuses primarily on complex family law matters including high asset dissolutions; high conflict cases; long term marriage dissolution; cases involving business owners, IT, and medical professionals; domestic violence family law; and preparing cohabitation, prenuptial, and postnuptial agreements. Favorite things include: multi-tasking, competition, travel, baseball, technology, a big view of the Olympic Mountains, and the outdoors. Primary dislikes include: Chinese food, passive aggression and apathy. Also: owned by trio of dachshunds, 2 cats & 1 big dog.

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