One of the most common questions in a divorce is “who gets the house?” Typically that’s a pretty easy question to answer. A much more difficult question is “who stays in the house while we get the divorce?”
Some couples cohabitate throughout the divorce, but it’s rare (for the obvious reason that it’s really awkward and uncomfortable). When it comes time to decide who should stay and who should go, keep these things in mind.
Keeping the house is a big expense
If you have a mortgage, it still has to be paid. Can you afford it? Can you afford the utilities? If you’re asking for alimony it certainly makes your claim that you need money stronger. But it might also reduce the amount of actual cash you get as alimony, as the Court might order your ex to pay the mortgage. Living in a house with no disposable income is not pleasant. Likewise, if you’re going to be paying alimony, paying the mortgage on a house you don’t live in reduces your ability to pay alimony to the other party. It also is a large expense on you. Is living in a studio apartment while your ex lives in a McMansion worth not cutting them a check every month?
Staying in the house can affect custody
Are your kids established in a certain school? Is this the only home they’ve ever known? Is your ex moving outside the school district? Staying in the house at that point might be more stable for your kids, and the judge is likely to see that. On the other hand, are you zoned for a bad school? Are your kids doing poorly in school? Is your house in a bad neighborhood? Moving to a better neighborhood with better schools is a way to show the judge you’re giving the kids a fresh start.
The house is going to be a big part of the final property settlement
Remember, moving is expensive and time consuming. Unless someone is letting the house fall apart, the judge will be more inclined to award it to whoever is living there. Houses are typically the “big ticket item” in a divorce. If you stay in the house during the divorce and keep it afterwards, you may not be as entitled to as many liquid assets as if you hadn’t taken the house. Is it your priority to keep the house? Or do you want to move into a new place and start over?
Truth be told, the answer to “should I stay in the house?” is “it depends.” To know for certain, you need to sit down and discuss your facts and goals with an exercised divorce lawyer. Staying in or leaving the house is a big decision that can impact your divorce. Don’t make it alone.