Do You Really Want to Keep the Marital Home?

Divorce rarely brings out the best in people, and common sense is often the first attribute to fall by the wayside at the beginning of proceedings. More than one spouse has ended up on the other side, officially divorced and scratching her head, wondering, “What have I done?” You love the house. You worked hard to improve it over the years. Your kids go to school down the street. There may be a lot of reasons you want to hold on to the property. But consider all the pros and cons before you give up everything else in settlement negotiations.

Keeping the House for the Kids’ Sake

Let’s start with your children, the ones who go to school in the district where the marital home is located. Changing schools can be traumatic for a youngster. If you’re sure you can’t relocate to a new home in the same district, this may be a consideration, but it may be less of a concern if your kids attend private school – a move may simply mean you have to drive farther to deliver them and pick them up on schooldays.

Their ages are an important factor as well. Although it may be upsetting for a fifth grader to change schools, the effect on a high school junior may be far worse if moving means he can’t graduate with the same kids he’s gone all through school with. The flip side is that he will most likely fly the nest in a couple of years, going off to college. Do you really want to make a long-term commitment to the property when your primary reason for keeping it is short term?

You might ask yourself — and your attorney — if it’s possible to defer the sale of the home for a few years for the sake of your kids. Sell it later when their schools and neighborhood friends are less of an issue if you and your ex can peaceably continue to co-own the home for a while. Of course, if you both remain on the mortgage and without any proceeds from the home’s sale to toward another house, one of you — the spouse who doesn’t remain in the home — will probably have to rent for a while.

As for more emotional considerations, you just don’t want to force your children to leave the only home they’ve ever known. Ask yourself if this is really worth many thousands of dollars to you or if you think you can parent them through the hard times.

Yesterday’s Mortgage vs. Tomorrow’s Mortgage

Your mortgage payment most likely won’t be the same post-divorce as it was when you were married. Your ex has a share in the home’s equity. You must typically buy out that share. Assuming you’ve got $50,000 in equity and a $175,000 existing mortgage, you’ll have to refinance the property for $200,000 to buy him out — $175,000 to pay off the current mortgage and get it out of his name, plus $25,000 so you can give him his portion of the equity. If the original mortgage you took out was for any less than $200,000 your new mortgage payments will most likely be more than what you’re used to paying.

Consider Your Post-Divorce Finances  

Ask yourself how you’re going to make those mortgage payments, regardless of whether they increase. You won’t have two incomes streaming into your household anymore. You’ll have to swing the financial burden on your own earnings, plus any child and spousal support you anticipate receiving. If it looks like it’s going to be a tight squeeze, the reality may be even worse — life has a way of tossing budget-busters at even the most financially responsible individuals. There will be repairs. Property taxes may go up. Affording the home on your own is most feasible in the long term if you have a fair bit of money left over in your budget after accounting for the mortgage payments and other necessary expenses.

These are just some of the reasons you might not want to fight to keep the marital home, but your personal reasons may be such that the pitfalls are something you’re willing to accept. If you have any questions about divorce, call the Law Offices Of Peter Van Aulen for a free 30 minute in office consultation.

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Peter Van Aulen was selected to the 2016 and 2017 Super Lawyers list. The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thomson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found at http://www.superlawyers.com/about/selection_process.html. No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

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Peter Van Aulen is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney.

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