Should you keep the house after your divorce is final? It’s a tough question to answer because there are emotions and finances involved which complicates things. What you do should depend on your own, unique situation, of course. That almost makes it worse, because the last thing you want to do right now is make that kind of life-changing decision.
Well, as much as you might want to consult the Magic 8 Ball on this, it’s best to sit down with pen and paper and write out the pros and cons the old-fashioned way. Here are some thoughts that might help you with your decision.
Are You Willing to Fight for It
My ex was great during the divorce -- and by great, I mean he didn’t do anything at all. I think it was the easiest divorce ever as far as dividing things up. He didn’t fight me on a thing and I appreciated that. Not all divorces are that easy. If yours isn’t, are you willing to fight for the house if your ex isn’t willing to let you have it?
Think about that carefully. There are going to be a lot of emotions happening -- a plethora of angst, anger, and grief to work through. Fighting to maintain ownership of a home that you may not even be able to afford might be too much for you. Consider your emotions, your finances, and your lifestyle before you go after the house.
The Money Pit
First things first -- can you even afford the mortgage payments and upkeep on your home? You may be downsizing from two incomes to one, or you may be entering the workforce for the first time in decades. Money will likely be tight for a while, and although most men do pay child support, some don’t. If you don’t get your child support right away will you lose your home? Then there is the maintenance issue -- how good are you at fixing the toilets or handling a leaky roof?
I have come to realize that if I hadn't remarried when I did, there was no way I could have kept my house. Finances weren’t the problem, but since my divorce we’ve had to rewire the house, replace the roof, replace two air-conditioning units, replace the gasline, and remove a tree that had fallen on the house (thus the new roof). I am not sure I could have done it alone. I am not even sure I would have known where to start! Add in lawn maintenance and you are talking about a lot of work that many women have not ever done before. Of course you can do it. You can do anything! My question is more along the lines of, do you really want to?
Another thing to think about is whether or not you’ll need to get your ex off the mortgage and refinance the house. If you bought the house at 2.5 percent and have to refinance at a much higher rate -- due to your changed financial status -- you may find that your affordable house payment is not affordable at all. Rebuilding your finances isn’t easy. You don’t want the house to be the thing that pulls you under.
Those Pesky Emotions
On the other hand, sometimes it just doesn’t matter. You’ll do whatever it takes because the house is meaningful to you. Divorce is a time of life when your foundations are rocked. If it was a natural disaster, divorce would be an earthquake I think. Nothing feels secure, nothing feels safe, and the idea of moving can be overwhelming.
If you think of your home as your refuge, a place of safety, or as a security blanket, then your emotional needs may far outweigh the financial difficulties keeping the house might pose. Then there are the kids to think about. Divorce is difficult enough without having to change schools or leave friends behind. They may well need the support group that they’ve established right where you are.
If you keep your house, you may be concerned that you’ll relive memories over and over again. I didn’t find that to be true. For me, it seems that my ex never lived here. Every once in a while I’ll come across a book or something that belonged to him, but even those things don’t evoke any sort of emotion. I am grateful for that!
It may be different for you if you’ve experienced a lot of trauma in your home -- for example, if there was family violence.
Get Legal Advice
When I went through my divorce I didn’t have much money, and I used an Internet divorce service. There were a lot of things that weren’t addressed and I had to wade through it as best I could.
We owned three properties at the time, and it seemed fair to me that I would keep the house and one of the investment properties while he got the other investment property. I figured, if nothing else, he could live there. What I didn’t know was what all paperwork was needed, and I never thought about the possibility of him just walking away from the house he got. After the divorce, I got rid of the investment property I had gotten because he wasn't paying the mortgage for the one he had -- and my name was still on it. I found out the only way to get my name off of it was for him to refinance it -- something he wasn’t going to be able to do.
I did some research and decided that a Quit Claim deed would allow me to take over the house and rent it out so that it didn’t go into foreclosure. Once my ex agreed and the paperwork was signed, I thought things would work themselves out.
Then I happened to be talking to the mortgage company and learned that they wouldn't recognize the Quit Claim deed, and I could do nothing with the house without his signature. I talked to a lawyer who advised me not to file any paperwork if it hadn’t been filed already. The house eventually went into foreclosure and I ended up having to claim it on my taxes because my ex refused.
If I had to go through that again, I would have gotten a lawyer before I did anything else. Don’t assume anything!
Talk It Over
Deciding what to do with the family home (or even investment properties) can be heartbreaking. It’s important that you talk your situation over with people that you trust. Join First Wives World today to get advice from others who have been right where you are.
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User : Diego Da Silva