If you are going through a divorce, one of the more challenging decisions is deciding what to do with the family home. Houses are much more than assets. They usually contain happy memories and are where you’ve raised your kids, or you may still have children at home.
Georgia is an equitable distribution state. Marital property is typically divided fairly among spouses, but that doesn’t necessarily mean an equal split. Courts follow principles of equity and fairness, and judges assess many factors to decide who gets the house.
The three basic options for dividing the family home
Before choosing how to distribute the family home, you should know its value. It may be wise for each spouse to order a separate appraisal. Once you agree on the amount and determine the equity involved, there are three typical options:
- Sell the house: This is the cleanest way to divide the property. Once it’s sold, you pay off the mortgage, taxes and other related costs and split the remaining sum.
- One spouse remains: Providing you or your ex can afford it, one person refinances the mortgage in their name, taking out a new loan and freeing up cash to buy out the other’s share of the equity.
- Both retain ownership: Sometimes, it may be wise to hold off selling a home, such as when neither can afford to buy out the other but have school-age children. Kids are usually why divorcing couples keep joint ownership, even if one party no longer lives there. Down the road, one can buy out the other or sell the property and divide the proceeds when the children leave home.
When disputes arise over who keeps the house, custodial parents may have an advantage as long as the judge is convinced that the children will have a stable home environment. A judge may also order the home to be listed and sold if neither can afford to keep the house.
Consider creative solutions
While the above options may seem cut-and-dry, it’s advisable to first consult an experienced family law attorney to consider every option. Your lawyer can suggest other options, such as exchanging assets, including retirement funds or trading larger shares of other property, instead of coming up with the cash to buy out the other spouse.