There are over 827,000 divorce cases recorded annually. Moreover, separation and divorce are the second most stressful event for people in the U.S. Beyond the emotional distress; there are disputes when you and your spouse have to make crucial decisions, including those regarding real estate.
Shared real estate becomes a significant legal issue that you have to deal with before and often after the divorce is final. Here is information to help you deal with shared real estate in the event of a divorce.
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN YOU HAVE REAL ESTATE AND ARE DIVORCING
CURRENT STATE OF RESIDENCE
The court divides both property and debts depending on where you live. It can be one of two schemes:
What is community property? Community property is shared property, whether real or other assets, which are acquired during the marriage. Washington, Arizona, Alaska, California, Texas, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Idaho, Louisiana, and Nevada are all community property states. If real property was acquired during the marriage, it is often split equally between the spouses, but not always. In fact, in Washington state, the property is typically not split 50/50. This is because Washington law states settlements should be “fair and equitable,” which means it all depends on your situation. If real property was acquired before marriage, it typically remains with the original owner, although other factors are considered.
If you reside in any other state apart from the above, the marital assets are shared fairly but not necessarily equitably. The court will consider several factors:
- How much each spouse is currently earning
- Potential earnings for each spouse
- If one spouse stays home to raise the children and is not able to work
- Work history and income of the stay-at-home spouse
IF YOU KEEP THE PROPERTY, CAN YOU AFFORD IT?
Keeping the house means that you will foot the mortgage, taxes & insurance, bills, maintenance, and repair costs. It is essential to evaluate whether you can comfortably shoulder the cost on your own. You will want to speak with a lending professional before agreeing to take on a mortgage liability. Sometimes one party thinks they can afford the monthly payment, when in fact, they may not qualify. It might make more sense to take the equity in your home and use it to downsize into a smaller home or invest a portion of it into retirement accounts.
TAX IMPLICATIONS OF YOUR DIVORCE SETTLEMENT
If you sell your house when you are still married, the government offers what is known as a capital gains exemption of up to $500,000 as a married couple. As a single person, only $250,000. This means that your tax liability can dramatically increase if you decide to sell your home after a divorce without the proper guidance. There are ways you can still retain this exemption; however, it must be completed strategically and with the proper guidance to not lose the benefit.
WHAT’S BEST FOR THE FAMILY?
As much as divorce can sometimes be inevitable, it should not affect the wellbeing of the children involved. I know this doesn’t sound easy, but both spouses should carefully consider their options and come up with what’s best for the family.
For example, one less common option is the children stay in the primary home as parents rotate shifts living with them. The more common option is the parents live in different homes, and the children go back and forth between the two homes. If children are school-aged, keeping them in the same school district is typically ideal, even if the family home must be sold. Choose whatever works best for your family, especially if children are involved.
OPTIONS FOR HOLDING ONTO OR SELLING PROPERTY
There are various ways in which separating couples handle the property. These can include:
- Continue joint ownership and living together: Separating couples may continue to own property and even live in the same home together, mainly to reduce the effects of divorce on children or for financial reasons.
- Continue joint ownership, but one spouse moves out of the home.
- One spouse buys the other one’s share of the property, including refinancing the mortgage if necessary.
- Selling the house before divorce: This is sometimes necessary if neither party can afford the mortgage or wants to keep the home.
- Selling the house after divorce: This is more common as a settlement agreement has been reached, and each party knows what their next steps with be.
Getting professional advice on real estate is essential during a divorce. Typically, real estate is the most significant asset most couples own. An excellent real estate broker is knowledgeable and can advise you on handling your estate.
WHY HAVING AN EXPERT IN THIS ARENA IS ESSENTIAL?
If you decide to sell your home, an agent will assess the value according to the condition and current market. This is typically done through a CMA or (comparative market analysis). A skilled broker will know the value of your home and how to get you top dollar.
IT ALLEVIATES STRESS
It’s enough that you are going through a divorce. You don’t want the stress of trying to sell your house too. A savvy broker will facilitate the property’s sale by helping you with any necessary repair items, procuring contractors, staging & marketing. They will also negotiate with potential buyer’s agents and limit your risk exposure.
A qualified realtor will also serve as a neutral party between divorcing spouses, ensuring that the sale of your home is not affected by disagreements. Brokers trained to work with divorcing clientele are skilled at communicating with both you and your spouse, especially in high-conflict situations. This will reduce conflict between the two of you and alleviate any mistrust you may have around the property’s sale.
If you are going through separation or divorce and need a real estate broker to make things easier for you, I would love to take some time to talk with you about your situation. I am committed to supporting and guiding my clients through these often challenging chapters of their life.