When a married couple buys a home in the state of California, it’s their community property, and if the couple divorces, the home must be “split” 50/50. When a marriage ends, the division of the family home is often a central point of dispute. Divorce often means a new lifestyle, a smaller home, or even a move to a new community.
For most spouses who are divorcing in California, selling the family home during the divorce is usually the best way to split the home. Of course, both parties will want the maximum possible benefit from the sale, and that’s where conflict can surface.
WHAT ARE THE WAYS A HOME CAN BE DIVIDED?
What are your options when you divorce in California and the family home must be divided? When you seek a divorce in this state, it’s imperative for you to understand all of your options and alternatives. In Southern California, to make sure that you are aggressively represented and that your legal rights are protected throughout the divorce process, work from the very start with an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney. If you and the spouse you are divorcing can agree, these are some of the options for splitting the family home:
- Selling the home: The easiest way to split a home is simply to put the home on the market and then divide the proceeds 50/50. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, this solution won’t be available in many divorces.
- A buy-out or sell-out agreement: In a buy-out, one spouse simply buys the other spouse’s half of the home. If you and the spouse you are divorcing agree to a buy-out, a good divorce lawyer will look out for your long-term interests.
- Remaining at the home: Certain divorcing couples may be able to share a house until a divorce is complete, but this plainly isn’t feasible for most couples during the divorce process. If the two of you choose to remain under one roof during the divorce procedure, establish clearly understood limitations and rules.
WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU MUST NOT DO DURING A DIVORCE?
However, one of the worst moves you can make just prior to a California divorce is voluntarily moving out of the house. If your name is on a lease or a mortgage, you are not obligated to leave. Sleep on a sofa or set up a tent in the back yard if you must. But do not move out before any divorce papers have been filed. If the case goes to a trial, your spouse’s lawyer can claim that you “abandoned” your family, and you’ll have a difficult time refuting the charge.
Dividing and distributing the marital assets is always a daunting challenge in the divorce process. If selling is the agreed-upon option for the home, selling also means that the divorcing spouses will have to select an agent, determine a selling price, and agree on the terms. Make sure the sale price takes into account your expenses: mortgage loan balances, legal fees, interest accrued, recording fees, transfer taxes, and property taxes. A real estate agent can help you determine the right selling price. Divorcing spouses who agree to sell their home will want the advice of an experienced divorce lawyer as well as a trustworthy and experienced real estate agent.
If a buy-out is the agreed-upon option for the home, and you are bought out by your spouse, have your name deleted from the title. If you are the one buying out your spouse’s share of the home, know the details regarding the mortgage, the principal-interest ratio, the taxes, and the homeowner’s insurance. If you plan to buy out your spouse’s equity in the home, you’ll need the ability to qualify for a mortgage by yourself.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD DIVORCING SPOUSES CONSIDER REGARDING THEIR HOME?
If you sell the home, you also must decide if either spouse will remain in the home until the sale. When divorcing spouses are parents, the parent with custody frequently stays in the home. If the house does not sell quickly, then provisions for the additional mortgage payments will need to be included in the final divorce settlement. Repairs, maintenance, and other expenses that selling a home entails will also have to be considered. If the valuation of the home is below the current mortgage balance, divorcing spouses may choose to wait and sell the home after market conditions improve.
As you can imagine, a number of factors must be considered when you sell your home during a divorce. Financial details are a substantial part of any divorce, so the more properties and assets you and your spouse own, the more complicated a divorce will be. While you should seek specific personal advice about finances during a divorce from an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney, the suggestions provided here can help you keep your finances in order during and after the sometimes-lengthy divorce process:
- Pay thoughtful attention to how your house is titled, where your important financial documents are stored, and the details regarding your assets, your debts, and your retirement benefits.
- Pay thoughtful attention particularly to your retirement plans. A divorce can effect your retirement savings, military retirement payments, corporate pensions, and Social Security entitlements.
- If the final divorce settlement lets you, close, split, or personally refinance mortgages, credit cards, and auto loans. Your own credit score shouldn’t suffer simply because your former spouse makes late payments or no payments at all.
- A divorcing parent may be ordered by the court to pay child support. Establishing a life insurance policy can guarantee those payments are made if the non-custodial, support-paying parent dies while the child support order is in effect.
- Keep on top of your own financial situation, because expenses really do rise when you are on your own. Two may not be able to live quite as cheaply as one, but the reality is that the single life really does cost more.
Bring your beneficiary designations up to date and ask your Long Beach divorce attorney about the changes you’ll need to make to your will and other legal documents after a divorce. California law does not require you to hire an attorney to handle your divorce, but an experienced California divorce lawyer can help you understand your rights in a divorce and provide the legal guidance you need – right from the start.