Aside from issues related to children, questions regarding the marital home are often the most contentious issues in a divorce. Assuming the house is marital property and not one spouse's property, determining how to split the home can be a difficult process. Here are some options.
One party buys out the other and keeps the home.
If there are a lot of marital assets, one party may be able to buy out the other. Courts generally try to split marital assets and debts equitably, but that doesn't necessarily mean equally. It means a judge will endeavor to find a fair split between the parties. If one spouse really cares about the house, he or she can negotiate a smaller share of other property in exchange for the house, perhaps giving up a share of retirement benefits.
Both parties sell the house and split the proceeds.
If there are few other marital assets, neither party may be able to afford to buy the other out. Additionally, even though one spouse may desire to keep the marital home, he or she may be unable to afford the mortgage payments. In such cases, it usually makes sense to sell the marital home and split the proceeds. It may take a considerable amount of time to arrange a sale and agree on a sale price, however.
Keep the home as middle ground.
In rare instances, divorcing parents decide that the family home should stay the family home. Rather than have the children move between the parents' homes as part of a custody arrangement, the parties agree to keep the marital home, allow the children to live in it full time, and each parent stays in the home during his or her custodial time. During non-custodial time, each parent lives in his or her own home or apartment.
This sort of arrangement is highly unusual for several reasons. First, it requires the parties to be able to afford to support three homes between the two of them. Further, it requires both parties to cooperate on all sorts of issues from home repair, cleanliness, and other home ownership issues. Finally, it requires the parties to be willing to have ongoing financial ties to one another.
No matter what decision you make about the marital home, it makes sense to discuss your options with an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can help you understand the legal and financial repercussions of your individual situation.