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Should you seek to keep the house in a divorce?

Where Strategy Meets Skill

Choices concerning the home you live in are always emotional. In a difficult emotional time, having to move may feel like an additional stress.

When dividing assets during a divorce, you should weigh the cost of a battle over your house versus winning the war for a favorable overall settlement. Here are some things to consider.

How important is the house to your family’s lifestyle?

Will moving out of the house separate children from friends? Will you be unable to find other housing that keeps them in the same school district? If you legitimately need to stay in the house to maintain your lifestyle, especially when you have primary custody of the children, this is an argument during property division for seeking to keep it.

Is there equity in the house?

Before agreeing to take responsibility for a house and a mortgage that comes with it, you need to be aware of whether there is equity in the house. In other words, is the house worth more than you owe? If not, you may not want it, or you may want to negotiate to ensure that you are not left in a negative equity position.

Will your income allow you to keep the house up?

Will your income, including expected support, allow you to maintain the house if you keep it? This would be a good time to have the home inspected to ensure that the roof, flooring, appliances and similar items are in good condition.

Does it make sense to sell the house?

A house that made sense for a family may not make sense for a single person. It may be a good time to reevaluate your housing needs. Selling the house and dividing the proceeds may put both spouses on a better footing to move forward.

A fair divorce settlement covers a lot of ground: custody, visitation rights, financial assets, vehicles, and housing, just to name a few. While it is important to get what you need during the negotiation process, it is also important not to focus so much on the house that you lose sight of other needs.

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