For many couples in California, the home where they live together will be the most valuable asset they share. Therefore, it is natural that people become possessive over the family home. People often become so focused on their fight to secure control over their marital home that they never stop to ask themselves whether doing so will actually benefit them or not.
Before you attempt to negotiate with your spouse, attend mediation or schedule a hearing for litigation in family court, you need to determine if you can keep the house in your divorce and whether doing so is the right choice.
Can you keep the home?
There are many situations in which neither spouse will end up keeping the family home in a divorce. For example, maybe you bought your house when the market was peaking in 2021 and are now majorly underwater on your mortgage because local prices have dropped. When you owe more on the house than it is worth, it may not be feasible for you to refinance the property and try to make those payments by yourself.
Even if you have some equity established in the home, you need to consider your spouse’s interest in the home. It is quite common for the person who keeps the marital house to need to refinance and withdraw equity to reimburse the other spouse for their interest in the property.
Although you might potentially qualify for a mortgage in the amount of your current principal balance, you may not have good enough credit or high enough income on your own to carry the principal balance required after transferring some of your equity to your spouse.
Is keeping the house the right option?
Once your sense of victory about keeping the house fades, will living in your home be pleasant, or will it be a source of bittersweet memories? You also need to think about the practical implications of solitary homeownership.
Can you take care of all the cleaning and outdoor maintenance? Will you be able to afford a new air conditioner if yours fails unexpectedly? For many people preparing for divorce, the realistic answer to the question of whether they should keep the house is often no even in a situation where they theoretically could keep the house.
To make a rational decision on this crucial matter, you need to understand your rights and think about what you want for the future. For many people, receiving a fair portion of the equity accrued in the home is the best option, as it provides them with resources for establishing an independent household after the divorce. However, those with young children or who need to live in a specific neighborhood may find that staying in their marital home is actually the better option.
Thinking carefully about property division matters can help you employ a practical approach to property division matters in your upcoming divorce.