Property Division In Divorce: Who Gets To Keep The House?

If you're facing a divorce where all marital property is to be divided between both parties, you and your former partner might be battling for the most precious item: the family home. There are many factors that play part in the final decision of who will be able to keep the house, and so it is best to make sure you are willing to put up a fight and that you have a strong argument for why the house should go to you instead of your former spouse. 

Is the house worth keeping?

Sometimes, even thought the thought of selling may gaul both parties, it is the most approachable option from a divorce standpoint. The monetary gains from selling the home can be divided and each person is then able to move on with the purchase or rental of a new place. Before going into a battle over the property, its best to sit down with your respective divorce lawyers and decide if foregoing the sale is really in the best interest of all involved. Justifiable reasons to keep the house, instead of selling, include

  • maintaining a stable and secure place for any children who live there. Selling the house and moving can add to the stress children feel during divorce.
  • proximity to work and family in the area. For those who have employment or who need a house to further their employment, such as those who have an home office and visiting clientele, keeping the house may be the best option.
  • sentiment. The sentiment should be stronger than a simple emotional attachment. If significant life events have occurred at the home, like the death of family member or the birth of a child, these could be reasons to keep hold of the property.
  • loss of revenue. Sometimes, selling a house will represent a financial loss for the couple, especially if the housing market is not favorable to those who are selling. In these cases, the house may be worth more without being liquidated as an asset.

What circumstances will give you a strong case for the property?

If you end up taking the battle for the home into court, you will need a strong case for why the house should be yours. Good arguments that will help sway the court in your favor will include:

  • whether you have custody of the children. Moving children from their current home and neighborhood can be hard on them. Courts try to decide what will be in the best interest of children, and so you will have a stronger case for keeping the house if you will be the primary caregiver.
  • if you have done work on the house. DIY projects and renovations could show that you have a vested interest in the improvement of the home. You lawyer can also argue "sweat equity", meaning that the house is more yours than your former spouse's because the work you did has value.Your lawyer should only argue this aspect if they are sure it will not backfire; some spouses do work that is not as easily quantifiable, such as watching children during the DIY project. 
  • whether or not you can afford to pay the mortgage, taxes, and upkeep without the financial support of a partner. Divorce can be costly for both partners and each may have trouble maintaining the lifestyle the might have enjoyed in a two-income household. In fact, research shows that each partner would need about a 30% increase in personal income in order to maintain the same standard of living they had prior to divorce. Your lawyer should work to show that you will be able to sustain yourself and your family while also providing adequate care of the property.

For more information, contact a family law attorney in your area.