Who Gets the House in a Divorce?

When it comes time to separate marital assets, there are many factors to consider. In general, you and your former spouse will split your assets 50/50. He takes his car; she takes her car. She takes the money in her checking account; he takes the money in his; the savings account and investments are split down the middle.

Some things, however, are a little harder to split–like your house. Since you can’t literally divide it down the middle, one spouse will typically keep the house in the divorce. In each divorce case, however, there are several unique factors to take into consideration before determining who will keep the house. (Hint: it’s not always “her.”)

Who will have primary custody of the children?

Most families want to keep things as stable as possible for their children during and after the divorce process. You probably want to protect your children as much as possible: to ensure that their lives remain normal, at least as much as you can. That may include allowing them to stay in the home they grew up in, rather than subjecting them to a move (especially if the move would involve changing schools). Carefully consider whether the house should go with the parent who has primary custody of the children during the divorce.

Who can afford the house?

When you selected your house, you probably selected it based on your combined income. Now, whichever spouse keeps the house will need to keep up with it on their own. Carefully consider your individual incomes. Will one spouse struggle to keep up with the mortgage payments or maintenance on the house? Equally importantly, can one of you afford to “buy out” the other spouse, offering financial incentive worth half the amount of the equity in the home?

If neither spouse can afford the house, it may be worthwhile to consider selling. The costs of divorce often add up fast, and you may find that both of you benefit from selling the house and downsizing, especially if there aren’t children to consider in your marriage.

Does one spouse care more about the house than the other?

In a divorce, it can be incredibly difficult to take your former spouse’s feelings into consideration–but those feelings are still important. Carefully consider whether one spouse has a deeper emotional connection to the house than another. Is it a home that was purchased from a family member, giving one of you a familial connection? Did one spouse build it from the ground up, or spend a great deal of time and energy picking out the perfect furniture and decorations? If so, it may be reasonable to allow that spouse to keep the house, even if it seems less convenient.

Do you really want the house?

Who keeps the house can become a heavy point of contention in many divorce cases–and often, it doesn’t have to. Before you go to battle over who gets the house in your divorce, carefully consider whether you really want it. Be sure to consider:

  • The cost of keeping up with the house. Upkeep on a house can be extremely expensive, and chances are, the divorce hit both of you hard financially.
  • Whether the house is geographically convenient. Will you be taking a new job in the immediate future? Have you always hated the commute? If so, it may be worth letting the house go.
  • Maintenance. Do you know how to handle mowing the yard, taking care of minor repairs, or how to deal with other minor upkeep around the house? If not, it may be worth selling the house and renting instead.

Are you struggling through a divorce, including dividing your assets? If you need legal counsel, contact us today.