Worrying about your home is common during a divorce. You have spent years living there and have invested thousands of dollars via your mortgage, property taxes, insurance premiums and maintenance to the property.
You may have a deep emotional attachment to the home or simply want to stay in the location that is convenient for your employment or your children’s continued enrollment at the same school. Perhaps the house has been in your family for several generations.
If you want to keep the home during a divorce, that is something you need to start planning for from the earliest stages. There are three steps you will need to take if your goal is maintaining ownership of your marital home.
Step one: Figure out what the house is worth
The real estate market tends to fluctuate, so the price that you paid for your home isn’t a reflection of the price you can sell it for today. It is the current market value of your home and not the balance on the mortgage that dictates each spouse’s share of the property. You may need to work with an appraiser or similar real estate professional to determine what your current property value truly is.
Step two: Verify that you can secure financing
Pushing for sole ownership of the home will be a pointless process if you can’t secure financing. You will generally need to give your spouse some of the equity, which means you will need to qualify not just to refinance the current mortgage but a higher overall balance. Pre-qualifying through a lender before you start negotiations to retain the home is a good idea, as not everyone can qualify to own their marital home without a second income.
Step three: Negotiate payment with your ex
You can either work directly with your ex or have your attorney contact theirs to negotiate appropriate compensation for your retention of the home. Knowing the value of the property will make it easier for you to negotiate reasonable and fair terms about such a major asset.
In some cases, you may not be able to arrange directly with your ex to keep the home. In that case, you will need to prepare to ask the judge presiding over your divorce to allocate the home to you. Careful planning can increase your chances of success.