Cleveland Family Law Attorneys

Can I Keep the House?

This is one of the most often asked questions when it comes to asset division in divorce. Of course, there is no definite answer to the question as every case is very different. The home is often one of the largest assets that need to be divided during the divorce process. The home is often a very emotional issue, especially if there are children involved. If both parties are still living in the house, it can be even more of an emotional issue.

It is important to note that unlike support issues, property division terms are often not modifiable after the divorce. You must first take an honest look at your income and debts and determine if it is feasible to pay the mortgage, taxes, and utilities. You also have to remember that homes require maintenance and upkeep that will continually cost you money. If you are going to rely on support as part of your ability to pay your mortgage, you need to consider once the support stops and you still have years left on your mortgage, how will you be able to pay for it then. Another important consideration is what you would need to do to buy out your spouse’s share of the equity in the home. Is it smart in the long run for you to off-set that equity by foregoing a portion of your spouse’s pension?  Can you refinance the home for enough money to buy your spouse out?  These are serious questions you must face when making this decision.

Another issue that you will face is that the court will likely require you to refinance the home to remove the other spouse within a usually short period of time after the divorce.   The reasoning behind this is that until the other spouse’s name is off the mortgage, that spouse will likely find it difficult to purchase a home of their own.  It is also a way to protect the other spouse’s credit should the spouse who gets that house stop making the mortgage payments.  The court and attorneys attempt to do everything within their power during the initial divorce proceedings to separate the parties and their assets as much as possible to avoid future conflicts. But with the current real estate and financial market, this is becoming harder and harder.  If you are unable to remove your spouse's name within the time period, the court can order the house to then be listed for sale or hold you in contempt for failing to do so.

The reality for most divorcing couples is that they will need to make adjustments to their lifestyle. Long-term financial stability should be a priority for those going through the divorce process. This may mean that keeping that house is not in your best interest financially, even though emotionally it may be difficult to part with the home.