dividing the houseWhen thinking of divorce, one of the most common questions that arise is “What will happen to my House if I get divorced?” Courts usually have the power to order the sale of the marital home. However, the status of the marital home during and after a divorce depends on whether there are children residing in the home, whether one party can “buy out” the interest of the other, or whether there are other assets to offset the equity in the home.

The first consideration is usually whether minor children are residing in the home. If there are children living in the house and it has been their home for a period of time, the Courts are usually very reluctant to order the home sold (absent extenuating circumstances, such as a severe mortgage delinquency or pending foreclosure) and the children uprooted. This is especially true earlier in a divorce action. Usually, the Court will give the party residing in the house a chance to come up with a plan to make the mortgage payments and retain the property. Judges would much rather give the parties the time to craft their own plan and on their own terms as to the disposition of the marital home than enter an order for its sale. If the case goes to trial and the Judge is forced to make a decision as to the sale of the marital home, it is likely that the Court will still not order the marital home sold until the children are emancipated. It is usually said that the non-resident spouse (usually the father) has an “illiquid asset” when there are children residing in the house. However, it is possible that the Court would offset the equity in the marital home against the value of other assets (such as retirement assets).

When there are no minor children residing in the house, the immediate sale of the marital home is much more likely. This is especially true if the equity in the marital home represents the primary marital asset or bulk of the marital assets. If there are substantial other assets, they can often be utilized to offset some or all of the equity in the marital home. Although judges are usually amenable to giving either spouse the opportunity to “buy out” the other spouse’s interest in the home, they are also cognizant of the fact that this is often impractical.

If a “buy out” is to happen, the equity in the home must be established. Certified real estate appraisers are often utilized. The appraisal(s) are then coupled with a formula (such as 50-50) to establish each spouse’s interest. When the home is sold, the valuation is usually straightforward. Assuming an arm’s length transaction, the value is the sales price.

Lastly, it should be mentioned that in a soft real estate there is a greater reluctance to sell real estate. Even though the parties agree to sell the marital home or the court orders it sale, the property may remain on the market unsold for an extended period of time.

Leave a Reply

DISCLAIMER
The information contained in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. The use of this Blog does not create an attorney/client relationship between you and the Law Offices of Barry R. Lewis. If you are considering divorce or if you are involved in any legal matter, you should hire an attorney.

Massachusetts Divorce and Family Law
Attorney Barry R. Lewis — Divorce Law Specialist
Locations Throughout Eastern & Central Massachusetts :: 508-879-3262