Who Gets The House?

A million questions are running through your head regardless of whether you or your spouse initiate divorce proceedings. Will I receive alimony? Will I pay alimony? What will happen to my assets? What will happen to my home?

Below is a list of frequently asked questions regarding how courts may treat your home as a result of divorce.

1. Are you in a community property or equitable distribution state?

In community property states, including Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Alaska, and your home was acquired during the marriage, the proceeds from the sale are split equally between you and your spouse. If one spouse purchased the home before the marriage, it is not considered community property and will not be split.

The majority of states follow equitable distribution. When determining how proceeds from the sale are spilt, courts consider various factors including whether the property was acquired during the marriage, any pre-marital contributions to the property, whether one party contributed pre-marital funds to the purchase of the home as well as to any improvements.

2. Should you buy out your spouse?

Factors to consider are whether you have children and if so, do you want the children to continue living in the home, and thus remain in the same school district. If you choose to buy out your spouse’s interest, you won’t need to sell the house if the market conditions are not good. You can wait to sell the home until the market conditions improve or until the children graduate from elementary school or high school.

3. Should you buy a new house?

If you choose to purchase a new home, make sure you will qualify for a mortgage and that you can support the expense of a new home on your new budget.

4. Should you include your kids?

Whether you choose to involve your children will likely depend on their age, maturity, and the kind of relationship you have with your children. Before involving your children, consider their emotions and determine how to carefully address the topic with them.

5. What happens to the mortgage?

If you sell the house, each spouse collects their share of the net proceeds, or one spouse takes full ownership of the house by refinancing the mortgage under their name.

If you’re keeping the home, you should refinance into a new mortgage loan. Often the person that is keeping the home is granted 6 to 9 months to refinance the mortgage.

6. What if your spouse refuses to sell?

If your spouse won’t cooperate, you may need to speak with an attorney who can file a motion to compel the sale pending the final divorce or after.

7. What is a deferred sale?

A deferred sale is an arrangement to not tell the home for a specified period of time. Deferring the sale of the home may make sense if you’re waiting for the real estate market to improve or if you don’t want to uproot your children from their school.

8. What professionals should you consider hiring?

You may want to hire a real estate agent or broker to sell your home, a divorce attorney, and/or a mediator to counsel you through tough financial and emotional decisions.

9. When should we sell the home?

You may want to sell the home right away or you may want to wait. If the market isn’t great, you may want to defer the sale. If you’re not ready to speak with your children, you also may want to hold off selling the home and speak with a divorce coach first to learn how to approach the children… Each divorce is different, and thus, speaking with trained professionals can help determine whether to sell and the best time to sell.

Body: Feel, Nourish, Soothe

Divorce can be traumatic. However, many people feel they must move past divorce without acknowledging their own needs. However, unprocessed trauma is stored in the body, deteriorating the health and wellbeing of the person experiencing it. Therefore, it is important that you remain in tune with your mind and body – as well as with your mental and physical pain.

You can take care of your body in many different ways. Think of the last time you did something that made you feel happy or content. This could be something as simple as playing a childhood game or going for a walk. Engaging with your senses is crucial to overcoming times of great stress. For example, during a panic attack – a time of heightened and extreme anxiety – one effective method of reducing stress is aligning the body with its surrounding environment. This is accomplished by identifying 5 things you see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. If you apply these principles to your daily life, rather than reserving them for times of great distress, they can help to maintain your wellbeing and conquer difficult times without severe stress. Reimagine this tool and apply it to your daily routine as so:

First, make a conscious effort to place yourself in environments that make you feel safe and calm during your free time. Get out and see things that are therapeutic for you – this can be anything from a street sign to a state monument. Next, touch and surround yourself with items that have brought you comfort throughout your life. This could be an old blanket or a favorite t-shirt. Listen to your favorite sounds – whether that be the sound of waves crashing in the ocean or your favorite song. Allow yourself to be enveloped by the things that bring you joy so that you can actively deflect the things that bring you pain. Don’t forget to engage with your smells – get out and smell the roses – literally. Exercise and interacting with nature have been two proven ways to reduce stress. Whether it be a walk around your neighborhood or a bike ride through your favorite town – get your body moving and your senses tingling with positive stimuli.

Finally – make or buy your favorite meal. Allow yourself to give into your cravings in a healthy and self-aware manner. Treat yourself because you deserve it – just because your marriage is ending doesn’t mean your happiness has to.

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1. Hanna, Amanda. “Your Top 15 Questions About Divorce and Real Estate: The Pros Weigh In.” HomeLight Blog, 14 Feb. 2019, www.homelight.com/blog/divorce-real-estate-questions/.

2. Drizin, Lee A. “8 Common Questions about Real Estate and Divorce.” Divorce Magazine, 29 Apr. 2018, www.divorcemag.com/articles/common-questions-real-estate-and-divorce.

3. Hanna.

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