Who gets to keep the house is often one of the most highly contested aspects of a divorce. Not only is it the largest piece of marital property, but it’s also where the couple made a home together. Many people might want to keep the house, not for its value, but for sentimental reasons, or because it’s the only home they’ve known for the past several years, or even decades. On the other hand, others might want nothing to do with a house that is now tainted with negative associations of an unhappy marriage, but they may need the house as a financial asset to help them get back on their feet after the divorce.
Try to Reach an Agreement
The ideal situation is always to talk with your spouse about what you want and why. Have an honest conversation about what each of you wants and needs from the divorce and how the house plays into that. Maintaining honest communication with your spouse is especially important if you decide to divorce through mediation or work together to come up with a divorce settlement that works for both of you.
The first thing to determine is whether the house can be considered marital property. In most cases the answer is yes, since newlyweds tend to buy a house together shortly after getting married and/or people move into new homes together after they’ve been married for several years. If one spouse owned it prior to the marriage, but the other made mortgage payments and/or other significant contributions to the maintenance of the house, or additions or projects that significantly increased its value, then it could give that spouse certain rights to seek a monetary award from the home.
But not all marital property is split 50/50 under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Instead, it gets divided based on several factors, including, but not limited to, the level of contribution by each spouse to acquiring and maintaining the property, the duration of the marriage, other property the parties will be receiving in the divorce, as well as their needs following the divorce.
Factors that Tend to Be Considered When Deciding Who Gets the House
That said, there are also other factors that play into the decision regarding which partner gets to keep the house. For example, if children are involved, the partner given the most parenting time in the divorce usually gets the house so they can keep living there with the kids. Divorce can be especially hard on children, and most judges are sensitive to the fact that letting the kids stay in the same house with one of their parents can help them adjust to the big change. Allowing the kids to stay in the house also means they don’t have to switch to a different school district or leave their friends behind, which is good for them, not only because it means minimizing the changes they have to go through, but also because they have a support system in place to help them deal with the stress of the divorce.
Sometimes the decision is less one of “who gets the house?” and more one of “who gets to stay in the house for now?” For example, if there are children involved, and the partner with the most parenting time gets to stay in the house with the kids, judges have been known to allow them the first opportunity to stay in the home. However, this is dependent on other factors, such as that spouse’s ability to refinance the mortgage, if the loan is in both names, and for that spouse to be able to afford to pay the mortgage following the divorce.
Regardless of whether children are involved, one spouse might be allowed to keep the house on the condition that they buy out the other spouse’s interest in the property. In a spousal support arrangement, the higher-earning spouse may be required to continue making mortgage, taxes, and/or insurance payments on the house, even if they no longer live there.
As you can see, divorce is a complicated situation and the more property is involved, the more complicated it gets. If you are getting, or considering getting divorced, contact our offices right away to discuss your options.
The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests.