Should I Stay in the Marital Home During a Divorce?
Besides children and finances, deciding who will reside in the marital home is one of the most common issues during a divorce.
Your home was supposed to be your sanctuary, a place to raise the children and be a family unit. Now that that dream is shattered, you may feel the need to cling even more closely to the idea of “home” but, at the same time, you may not find it wise to take on the financial burden of carrying a home with the cost of utilities, insurance, taxes, and upkeep.
As a marital home is usually the largest asset owned by the couple, it may not always represent an asset. Not only upkeep but a down real estate climate or an upside-down mortgage need to be considered to determine if the home represents an asset or a liability.
So, what are some of the considerations?
Equitable Distribution in a Divorce
Florida is not a community property state where assets acquired during a marriage are owned equally by each spouse regardless of who earned the money.
Florida considers marital property to be divided under the laws of “Equitable Distribution.” That means any assets or property acquired during the marriage are to be divided in a fair and equitable manner.
That might include the funds that purchased your marital home.
If you cannot agree, the judge overseeing your divorce will step in to divide the assets as well as the liabilities or debts.
The judge may not always rule in your favor. Flexibility in negotiating with your spouse will be the key here.
Equitable distribution does take into consideration the assets contributed to the marriage by the spouse who brought in fewer dollars but took care of the children and the value that brings.
The Marital Home
Assuming for the sake of discussion that one spouse wants to remain in the marital home. It was purchased during the marriage so is considered an asset that must be divided.
On the other hand, if one spouse owned the house before the marriage it may not be considered an asset to be divided.
The decision to stay or not might rest on the level of equity in the property. A home that represents a considerable investment is different scenario from a house that is largely still owned by the bank.
If there is considerable cash in the house, consider how having that cash might improve your future? Can you purchase a smaller home that is more than adequate? Can you change neighborhoods or buy a less costly home, a condo, or townhouse and have money in your pocket?
These are all variables that need to be discussed with your experienced Florida divorce attorney who will help you establish a settlement agreement with your best interest in mind.
If the home is a marital asset, the judge may order the home to be sold so the proceeds can be divided. However, if one spouse feels strongly about staying in the home, especially if there are children, the relative value of that decision could result in an award to the other spouse of additional monies or assets making the division more equitable.
The judge also has the option of allowing someone to stay in the home for a specified period of time, after which, both parties agree to sell the home and divide the proceeds.
Keeping the Marital Home
There are other variations to the house situation. In some cases, the marital home may continue to be co-owned for a limited time, say for when the children need to go to a new school or when they graduate. At that time, the house is sold, and the proceeds will be divided according to your divorce settlement.
In this scenario, one parent may opt to move out making the home more peaceful for those remaining.
This takes a special sort of cooperation between divorcing spouses. The house presumably will appreciate and the children can stay in the same school with the same friends but dividing assets will have to wait. This arrangement will need to be documented in written form.
Selling the Marital Home
Determine the value of the home before you make any permanent decision. A real estate agent can determine the sales price if marketed today. The other option is to go online and come up with “comps” or comparable homes in the neighborhood. Average three or so and determine the value of the home.
Selling the home can potentially give you the assets you need to move on. Another option is for one spouse to buy the other’s interest in the home, again providing the opportunity to purchase a more suitable home.
Discussing Your Options in a Florida Divorce
Flexibility is the key and one must be realistic about the cost of maintaining a family home.
Crystal Collins Spencer has decades of experience helping a spouse through a difficult divorce even when there are assets that may seem to be out of reach. She is adept at researching financial information to find any assets that may be intentionally hidden to bring the most equitable division to the divorce table. She will be by your side to help create a marital settlement agreement that best suits your particular situation. By doing the math she can help you see the wisdom of creating a new life, either in or without the marital home.
Let her be an assertive advocate for your rights during the difficulty of divorce. Call the Spencer Law Group at her Pensacola, Florida office to schedule a consultation at (850) 795-4910.
Please Note: While the Florida courts have temporarily canceled all but essential proceedings during the coronavirus crisis, we are still working while taking all of the necessary precautions, and we can complete much of the necessary groundwork for your proceeding while we wait for things to return to normal.