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What happens to the family home in a divorce?

When you and your spouse go through a California divorce, your family home often represents one of your biggest issues. You may wish to stay there with the kids while (s)he wishes to sell it, or vice versa. Or there may be a good reason why one of you needs to stay there, at least for a few years, before selling it becomes more practical. As reported by the Orange County Register, you and your spouse have several options when it comes to what to do with your family home when you divorce.

Keep in mind that California is a community property state. This means that if you and your spouse purchased your home during your marriage, each of you has a 50 percent ownership interest in it. On the other hand, if one of you owned the house prior to your marriage, the court may well consider it his or her separate property. Even then, however, if the other has contributed to the mortgage payments or otherwise contributed to the home’s increase in value, determining each of your precise ownership interests can quickly become complicated.

Children considerations

If you and your spouse have school-aged children, it might make more sense for whichever of you has primary custody to remain in the home with the children. In this way they need not change school districts and otherwise forego the friendships they have made and the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. But does that mean that the staying spouse must buy out the leaving spouse’s interest in the home? Not necessarily.

Such a buyout likely is the “cleanest” and most straightforward solution. Once again, however, you need to determine the buyout price based on not only the value of the home, but also the value of the staying spouse’s ownership interest. In addition, whichever one of you stays must fully understand the financial obligation (s)he is undertaking. It amounts to considerably more than simply the amount of the mortgage payment. If that payment does not include both property taxes and homeowner’s insurance, be sure to take these costs into consideration. Also, consider the age of your home and the condition of such things as its roof, heating and air conditioning system, plumbing, appliances, etc. If any of these need replacing, that, too, will become the sole responsibility of the staying spouse.

Determining what to do with your family home during a divorce always requires a good deal of thought and consideration. The option you and your spouse choose must be the best one for your unique situation. This is educational information only and not intended as legal advice.


Kids And Divorce