In a divorce, one of the first requests I get from a CDO is, “I want to be sure I get the house.  What can we do to make that happen?”  (Want to know what a CDO is?  Click here.)  The home is often one of the largest assets in a divorce, and knowing what to expect a court might do in a divorce can be immensely helpful in planning your future.
You should consider 5 things when asking, “Can I keep the house in my divorce?”

First, consider whether you are able to maintain the house expense without sacrificing yourself into poverty.  With many homes, the mortgage debt is either in both parties’ names or in the monied spouse’s name.  If you want to keep the house, your spouse may want to have his or her name removed from the mortgage.  To do this, you will either have to refinance the house or sell it.  Click here to learn more about refinancing requirements.

In the event that your spouse does not require you to refinance or sell the house, or if the mortgage is already in your name, then consider other financial factors.  If you end up with no child support or alimony, will you be able to continue mortgage payments, utility payments, insurance, taxes, etc. and still live comfortably?  Or will you have to scrimp and sacrifice your savings, vacations with the kids, or contributions to retirement?  It helps to create a budget of current expenses and one of future expenses to help you figure this out.

If you can’t afford the house without support, how much support will you need?  Is it a reasonable request from your spouse, or is it so outrageous a judge won’t even consider it?  Courts are reluctant to impose a liability on a person if that liability cannot be met, so if you can’t afford the house, a court is not likely to award it to you.

Second, consider whether you really want the house.  Lots of people want the house for emotional reasons.  But consider what the practical and rational reasons are for either staying or moving.  Can you get a more affordable home in the same neighborhood?  Will it keep you sad or angry every time you think about a memory attached with the house?  It can be hard to accept that it is time to move on, but sometimes stepping out of our comfort zones is the healthiest thing we can do for ourselves.
Third, if you are going to move, consider the timing of it.  Usually, putting the house for sale and moving out sooner rather than later can be better than waiting because it allows everyone to settle into a new situation quickly.  However, if children are in school, you may prefer to wait until a semester ends or summer break, thereby easing transition issues for your children.
Fourth, consider whether it will be more stable for the children to remain in their home.  A court may find that it is in the children’s best interest to remain in the home.  That means that if you are the children’s primary conservator, you get to stay there with them.  The court may feel strongly about not disturbing the children’s stability and could order your spouse to pay support over and above the standard amounts to help pay for the home.
Lastly, consider who will be liable for the mortgage.  Just because the house is awarded to one person does not mean that the mortgage is transferred as well.  If both of your names are on the mortgage, your spouse may want to force the sale of the house so that he or she is not liable for it.  Being stuck on the mortgage can affect a person’s credit and ability to buy property later on.  Spouses can agree to refinance the mortgage, but if you don’t qualify for the refinance, then there is little a court can do.  A court may order that the house be sold and then split up the equity accordingly.
At Alexandra Geczi PLLC | Family Law, we understand these issues and the issues a CDO must address when facing the uncertainty of divorce.  We work with a team of professionals to deliver the highest quality legal services to ensure that we take care of our clients so that they exit their divorce with a plan to conquer life’s next chapter.  Contact us today to learn more about our firm and the CDO Divorce.