You will have to make several financial decisions as part of your divorce, and when you own a home, deciding how to handle it will be one of the most challenging tasks you and your spouse will undertake. A house is expensive to keep and fully maintain, and the changes in finances that divorce brings can affect how and whether you keep the house.
Regardless of what you ultimately decide, keeping the house maintained while the divorce is ongoing is a crucial step in protecting its value and your peace of mind.
Talk About the House Before You File
Before you formally file for divorce, get your finances and home together as much as you can. You will want to know what your home’s value is currently in your market and in its condition, so work with a real estate agent to get an assessment of your home.
The next step is organizing your finances. Once you have an accurate picture of what your financial situation is and will likely be when your spouse’s income is taken out of the equation, you can make a more informed decision about what to do with the home. Gather and assess your bills so you can make a monthly budget. A budget will help you see how your finances will change with the divorce, and you can also use it to find areas with overspending that you can cut back on.
Speaking to your spouse about what to do with the house should be your next step. Decisions need to be made about who will stay there while the case is ongoing and whether the home will be kept by one spouse or sold. The right option for you will depend on your situation, including whether you have children living there and whether the house is affordable on one income.
Keep in mind that while you may be emotionally attached to the home, there is no real point in fighting to keep it if you won’t be able to afford it and will end up at risk of losing it anyway. It’s better to let the house go and take other assets that will better provide for your future instead if you are in this situation.
Get Caught up on Any Maintenance
It’s important to keep up your home, even with everything else going on. Doing so will prevent unexpected problems that only damage its value and add more stress to your life. If you don’t keep up on its maintenance, your spouse could potentially argue that you are intentionally trying to damage a large marital asset, too.
Prepare Yourself If You’re Going to Sell
If selling the home is the decision you and your spouse have reached, start preparing now. The sale of the family home during a divorce is often laden with emotions, so focus on the fact that the sale is a business transaction and not personal in any way.
Given the sensitive situation, you will want a real estate agent you and your spouse trust and feel comfortable with. Ask your divorce attorney for recommendations for agents if you are having trouble finding a person you agree on.
Should you decide to keep the family home, don’t be afraid to make it feel a little more like it’s just yours after the divorce. Repaint, redecorate and make the little changes you’ve always wanted or just recently thought of to reflect your new post-divorce life.
Deciding what to do with the family home in a divorce can be an emotionally charged process, but this is where facts and figures need to take the lead. Review your situation, your money, and your future finances to come to the wisest decision possible about the home.