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Who Gets the Family Home After a Divorce?


Who Gets the Family Home After a Divorce?


Your home is likely the most expensive asset that you and your spouse purchased together. Deciding who will get to keep the family home can be one of the most challenging parts of the divorce process Part of your divorce settlement terms includes the distribution of your assets, including large purchases such as your house. Since you can’t just cut a house in half, you’ll need to come up with a plan for how to handle the home after divorce. An experienced divorce attorney will help guide you through the process to determine who gets the family home after a divorce.


Washington is a Community Property State


Washington is one of a handful of states that still utilize the community property concept for the distribution of assets and liabilities in a divorce. Community property includes all assets that the couple obtained while they were married or property they purchased with community funds. This includes money that both spouses earned during the marriage. If you purchased your home while you were married, it is likely part of community property. Couples must divide community property in a fair and equitable manner so that each party receives a fair share of their overall estate.


Do You Have a Prenuptial Agreement?


You may have an agreement or contract with your partner that provides for who gets the family home after a divorce. A prenuptial agreement is one of the most common ways to handle the distribution of property if the marriage ends. A prenuptial agreement is made before marriage and takes effect when you wed. A postnuptial agreement is one you make during your marriage, rather than before. Either agreement is enforceable as long as you make it according to the law.


Do You Have a Separation Agreement?


Washington allows married couples to legally separate. This means that they may opt to live separately before they divorce. A legal separation agreement is a document that provides for how assets and liabilities are divided between the spouses. The agreement is much like a settlement agreement in a divorce, except the couple is still legally married. If you are going through a separation, you will want to consult with a qualified divorce attorney to assist you in making an agreement that provides for who gets the family home.


Is Your Home Separate Property or Community Property?


Before you can properly determine who gets the family home after a divorce, you will need to determine whether it is separate property or community property. The answer is not always simple. For example, if one person purchased the home prior to marriage, but both were contributing to it and paying the mortgage from community funds, both parties may own a portion of the home or have a community interest. You will need to review the financial details of the purchase, along with the payments towards the loan and other factors to determine how to properly divide the home’s value in a divorce.


Which Spouse Can Afford the Home?


When the court reviews the options, they will look to ensure that the party that keeps the family home will be able to afford it. Even though you may want to stay in the family home, you need to review your finances to ensure that you have the funds necessary to pay for it going forward. Some of the costs of owning a home include the mortgage or loan, taxes, and ongoing maintenance costs. You will also need to have some money set aside for emergency situations that could crop up. If the mortgage is currently in both names, you will want to investigate if you qualify to obtain a mortgage in your name alone.


Do You Have Children Living in the Home?


If you have young children living in the home, you certainly need to consider them when you decide who gets the home after a divorce. The court will always do what is in the best interest of the children. Keep in mind that they attend school, participate in activities, and have friends nearby. You will not want to do anything to upset their lifestyle anymore than necessary since they are already going through some major changes in their lives. The parent who has primary physical custody may therefore prefer to stay in the home to continue raising the children in their familiar environment.


Will We Need to Sell the Home?


Couples may decide to sell the home and split the profits as part of their divorce settlement agreement. Another option is to allow one spouse to remain in the home for a period of time, such as while the children are still in school, and sell it at a later date. Generally, the courts will force a couple to sell the home if they are unable to reach an agreement on their own. The courts prefer that spouses negotiate an agreement about who gets to keep the family home after a divorce. You will want to learn the current market value of the home in order to make a decision. The current housing market will also play a role in your decision whether to sell the property.


What if We Cannot Decide Who Gets the Family Home After a Divorce?


Your divorce attorney will assist in resolving minor conflicts during the divorce process, including issues regarding how to divide the family home. If you and your spouse cannot come to a fair resolution, you may require some assistance of a third party neutral. One option for assistance is divorce mediation. A mediator is a trained professional who helps guide couples through difficult divorce disagreements. A mediator is not required, but can sometimes help to make the process easier and shorter.


A divorce dissolves more than a marriage; it also requires breaking down all the assets and liabilities that you acquired as a couple, including physical property. If you are going through a divorce and have a home as well as other assets, you will likely benefit from the guidance of a skilled divorce attorney. Contact us at View Ridge Family Law & Estate Planning at (206) 210-1562 to request a consultation.


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