When a couple calls it quits, the divorce process can be simple or complex based on how many issues are present. Common issues are children, debt, property, and more. When it comes to marital property, few items will be as costly as a home, and the home can also represent hidden emotional ties for many. Read below for an exploration of how marital property like a home is handled during a divorce.

Marital Property or Not?

The house may not be part of the marital settlement agreement if it is considered separate property. Separate property includes items owned before the date of the marriage. If one party already owned the home, it might be separate property – especially if the home had no mortgage on it. However, most people do have mortgages, and both parties may have contributed to the payments each month, to home improvements, to maintenance and repairs, or to taxes and other home-related expenses. If so, the funds contributed by the other party should be part of the marital settlement agreement. The contributing party may not be awarded the home, but they might be paid for their contributions using other assets.

Do You Really Want the Home?

Most people automatically decide they want to be awarded the family home, but it's important to take into consideration the financial impact of that. While staying put can lend a feeling of stability, it may cost you more than you think. Before asserting your wishes, do the math on what it will cost to pay the mortgage, property taxes, homeowners' insurance premiums, home maintenance, and yard care, as well as paying for repairs on the home.

Deciding Things For Yourselves

The judge will likely approve joint decisions about the home as long as the total divorce asset allocation seems fair. Making these choices on your own is preferable because you and your spouse know what is best for you better than a stranger does. It also costs more money in legal fees and court costs when you must leave the decision up to the family court judge. Keep in mind that, while making your decisions, you can get as creative as you wish with the home. For example, you can decide to:

  • Let the person who has custody of the children keep the home until the children are 18 and then the home is sold.
  • Keep the home until interest rates improve, the real estate market is better, or one party buys a property.
  • Keep the home, rent it out, and divide the income from that rental after expenses.

To find out more about how real estate is divided in your state if the judge has to decide, speak to a divorce attorney.