For most people, the American dream includes owning your own home. However, family changes can affect home ownership, and should be considered by present or prospective home owners. As part of this multi-part series, we will explore how changes in life, such as marriage, divorce, aging and death, can affect home ownership.
HOME OWNERSHIP AND DIVORCE
Divorce is a difficult time in many respects and addressing issues of home ownership can be particularly challenging. There is an emotional side to determining what happens to the marital home. One or both spouses may wish to stay in the home, or perhaps neither one wishes to stay in the home. If the couple has minor children, keeping the children in the home can help reduce the impact of the divorce on the children. Many couples live near other family members, and that can also impact which of the spouses retains the marital home.
The financial division of the marital home can be very complicated. If one spouse owned the home prior to the marriage, there may be a separate, premarital interest in the home. One of the spouses may have received the house as an inheritance, making is the separate asset of that spouse. On the other hand, perhaps the couple purchased the home together after they were married and paid for it solely with marital funds, making the entire equity of the home subject to equitable division through the divorce.
However, when couples have been married for many years, a combinations of factors can affect the distribution of equity in the marital home. Suppose the husband owned a home at the time of the marriage and had $50,000.00 in equity in the home. After the marriage, the couple lives there for ten years and pays the mortgage together, although title to the home remains unchanged. Then they sell the home and use the $125,000 from the sale to purchase a new home together, in both names. Five years later, they file for divorce and need to determine each spouse’s equity interest in the marital home. Questions that need to be addressed before the home equity can be divided include i) how much equity is in the marital home; ii) does the husband continue to have a separate premarital interest in the marital home and iii) if so, how much. These are complicated questions and are extremely fact specific. A real estate agent or an appraiser can assist in determining a fair market value of the home. The remaining questions include a combination of fact and law that should be reviewed with a family law attorney.
When dealing with home ownership during a divorce, it is best to seek the advice of a family law attorney to assist you. To schedule an appointment to meet with a Paulding County family law attorney, call 678-535-3232.