You’re getting a divorce: What happens to the house?

Your home may be the single biggest asset you and your spouse have. It may also be the most complex issue you face when it comes time to divide up the marital property. You can’t, after all, simply divide a house in two and carry off your share.

So, what can you do with the house in a divorce?

Your options for dealing with the family home

There’s no right solution to this issue for every couple, but the usual options for handling a house in a divorce include:

  • You sell the home before the divorce and split the equity. This is often the quickest, easiest way to divest yourself of a big financial tie to your ex, but it can be problematic if the real estate market is soft or you don’t have much equity in the property.
  • You keep the home together and sell it down the road. Maybe you want to keep the kids in the only home they’ve known until they graduate school, or maybe you just want to let the home’s equity grow a little longer. This requires some careful negotiations, however, regarding who will pay what bills for the home’s upkeep and when the sale will happen.
  • One of you buys out the other’s interest in the property. This usually means getting the home appraised so that you know the fair market value, first. Then, the spouse who wants to keep the home needs to refinance the mortgage into their name alone (to get the other spouse off the hook in case of a default).

Sometimes, spouses will also “trade” one asset for another of roughly equal value in their divorce. For example, maybe you want to keep the house and your spouse wants to keep the truck that’s paid off. If the equity in each is comparable, that’s a possibility.

Working with an attorney can make it easier to clearly see your options when it comes to issues involving property division and more. It’s also the best way to protect your future interests.