Keeping the House

One of the most common desires divorcing couples who have children express is for one of them to keep the marital residence. Understandably, there is a strong emotional attachment to a home, especially one that is owned. The desire to keep that home is primarily motivated by a desire to keep as much stability as possible for the children.

This is indeed a great goal, however it is not often an achievable goal. Most couples purchase a home at the highest end of what their family income can afford. Then, when a divorce comes, they are faced with paying for two residences rather than one. Other expenses typically multiply as well since all the efficiencies of pooling resources is gone. Also, new expenses for dating and getting in shape also pop up soon after separation.

Divorce leads to much higher expenses all the way around, but income usually is pretty static. Other than for those rare couples with lots of disposable income, the math leads inexorably to the conclusion that the marital residence must go; both parties must down-size. When either party refuses to look at this reality, divorces tend to get messier.

The desire to hold onto a marital residence, even when it simply is not financially feasible, leads to extra litigation. This plays out by one party, typically the wife since more often than not she earns less and is home more, fights for a level of alimony (maintenance) and child support that will let her keep the house. Even when successful, this strategy saps both households’ budgets to the point where there is no margin. And, either party living on an extraordinarily tight budgets leads to ongoing tension and fighting.

I truly do understand the desire to keep at least one area of life consistent for your children. However, I believe the far more valuable thing for the children to adjust well to the divorce is to minimize strife rather than hold on to a house. Get your attorney to help you think though what is reasonable given the combined household income. They will have access to your soon-to-be ex-spouse’s finances. If keeping the house is going to spread both budgets too tight, then it just is not worth it.


This entry was posted in Child support, Distribution of property, Divorce / Dissolution of Marriage, Family Law and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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