One of the most complicated and emotionally intensive parts of the divorce process is deciding what to do with the shared home. Not only is a house a huge financial commitment to divide, but it also holds a lot of memories that can be bittersweet to part with.
In some rare cases, the decision of who keeps the house is simple. If a person bought the house before the marriage, for example, they can take steps to ensure it is considered a separate asset.
But most of the time, it is not so easy. Most marriages see a mingling of almost all assets, including buying a house together. If the spouse lived in the house, paid for its mortgage and upkeep, it will likely be considered a shared marital asset.
When making the decision of who will keep the house and how its funds will be divided, there are several things to consider:
Know Your State’s Laws
The laws governing a division of assets will be different depending on what state you live in. Some states have community property rules. This means that each partner is entitled to 50% of the equity of the home.
However, the majority of states – including Maryland – follow equitable distribution rules, which seek to divide the value of the home fairly, but not necessarily 50/50.
At this point, you have two ways to decide how the home assets are divided. You can try to find a resolution with your ex-spouse, or allow the court to make the decision for you.
Try to Decide With Your Ex
The easiest route is to try to reach a decision with your ex.
In some cases, one spouse wants out and the other wants to stay. So the remaining spouse will likely buy out the partner’s share of the home equity. Or, if both spouses want a fresh start, they can sell the house together and split the profits.
It becomes more complicated in situations where both spouses want to stay in the house.
Though the home holds many emotional ties, there are also practical matters to consider.
For example, if one spouse is in a better financial position to afford the house and its associated taxes, it would be reasonable for this partner to keep the home.
Some couples have an easier time than others trying to find an amicable solution. Some relationships end so tensely that communication is nearly impossible.
This is especially true for marriages in which one partner was controlling, manipulative, or domineering. This dynamic will make an unbiased, fair divide nearly impossible.
In this case, it is best to take the decision to the courtroom.
Let the Court Decide
Your other option is to let the courts decide on your behalf. The judge hearing your case will provide an experienced and unbiased opinion.
The main drawback to this option is the extra time and money it will add to the already lengthy divorce process. In addition, many people feel uncomfortable with the idea of a total stranger making big personal decisions for them.
The judge considers many factors and laws when making their decision. Most importantly, they consider the intention each spouse has for the home.
For example, in cases where children are involved, the judge will likely seek a solution that causes as little disruption to their lives as possible. This means the home will likely go to the parent with full custody.
Other factors include each spouse’s age, income, awarded alimony, and the circumstances surrounding the divorce. Divorces caused by violence or domestic abuse, for instance, will sometimes include a restraining order which allows the victim to keep the home.
Family Divorce Lawyer in Maryland
In order to navigate the complicated decision of which spouse keeps the home, it is very important you have a trusted family lawyer on your side. The Law Offices of Sandra Guzman-Salvado, conveniently located in Rockville, Maryland, can help. Our experienced team can argue your case effectively and ensure you receive everything you are entitled to. Call us today!