According to the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, although divorce is one of the most difficult experiences people may face during the course of a lifetime, research supports that both children and adults most often successfully cope with the stress and move on to lead happy and healthy lives after divorce. During the uncertain transition time surrounding a divorce however, many seek to maintain as much familiarity in their lives as possible – often resulting in an emotional need to fight for a family home.
Although it may seem best to continue living in the house that was lovingly made into a home, it is important to take a step back from the emotional connection and seriously consider the financial repercussions of divorce-related property division, including owning a home without a spouse.
Financial Issues and the Family Home
There are three major issues tied to home ownership that one must budget for: the mortgage, upkeep costs and taxes. If refinancing is an option, mortgage payments can be made more manageable. However, if unable to make payments individually it is possible to use co-ownership after divorce. People often use co-ownership for a short time and then put the home up for market or allow one party to buy out the other’s interest.
While budgeting for mortgage payments, it is important to also include the costs of upkeep and taxes. Upkeep can range from hiring for lawn maintenance to replacing a furnace that suddenly breaks down. Taxes, unfortunately, are not a controllable expense. However, calculations should include the likelihood that property taxes will continue to increase.
Determining Whether to Keep the Family Home
If you are unable to afford the home, it is often prudent to sell. A short sale can expedite the process if you cannot pay the mortgage and foreclosure is a possibility. This process is an agreement with the bank or mortgage lender that allows sale of the property for less than remains on the mortgage.
Although this option negatively impacts credit for a few years, it is not as devastating as a foreclosure. Experts strongly recommend against foreclosures at this point, as most divorce judges will not agree to its inclusion in a divorce petition.
If you find it possible to keep the family home, consider what will be exchanged. Many quickly agree to give up rights to retirement benefits which may end up being an unfair trade-off. Balancing these considerations is difficult. As a result, it is important to contact an experienced family law attorney to provide you with a strong financial foundation following a divorce.