Did you know that every 36 seconds, one divorce takes place in the United States?
Hashing out a divorce is emotionally and psychologically challenging. Among the choices you have to make during the proceedings is who gets the house in a divorce.
Seeing that you are both emotionally invested in the property, making such a decision can be tumultuous at times.
Here is a rundown on marital property and how the law handles the issue of the house in a divorce.
What Is Marital Property?
Marital property is any asset that any spouse purchases during the life of the marriage.
Depending on the state you live in, marital property tends to have different ownership rules to it.
Marital Property and the Community Property States
Community property states hold that any property or assets purchased during the life of the marriage are seen as ‘community property.’
As such, any asset or property falling under such a classification belongs to both spouses equally.
That will also include all debts incurred during the life of the marriage.
Community property is defined as that which is purchased (or incurred in the case of debts) between the beginning and end of a marriage.
Specifically, when the marriage begins and when the couple physically separates intending to end the marriage.
Thus, any purchases or debts that fall outside of this period are seen as separate property.
Any asset that either spouse bought before the marriage is deemed separate property in such a state.
Therefore, in the eyes of the law, such an asset belongs only to that spouse.
However, a spouse who owns the separate property is free to transfer it to the other spouse, which will be seen as a gift.
They can also transfer the said asset to become community property.
For example, a husband can decide to make the wife an account holder on a bank account.
In specific scenarios, the spouses can elect to comingle their separate property with community property.
For example, this can happen when the spouses choose to add the money they had before the marriage to the funds they own under community property.
Marital Property and the Equitable Distribution States
When one spouse purchases any property or asset during the marriage, they own it free and clear.
However, if such property ends up being registered in the names of both spouses, then each spouse owns 50% of it.
For example, when Jane buys a car while she is married to Michael, the car belongs solely to her.
However, if she pays for it and decides to register it in her and Micahel’s name, then each of them owns 50% of the vehicle.
Who Gets the House in a Divorce?
During a divorce, the person that gets to keep the house depends on your state’s view on marital property and if it is a joint property.
Your state’s law is what governs property ownership and who gets what during the divorce.
Thus, your state can either follow the equitable distribution or community principles when awarding the house during your divorce.
Common Property States
Several states use community property rules, and these are:
Alaska (by agreement)
In community property states, both spouses own all income and assets purchased during the marriage equally.
Even if only one spouse was employed when the assets and income were being acquired, both of them own it equally.
Thus, during a divorce in such a state, you and your spouse will get to split the home equally.
For example, if your home is worth $800,000, then each of you will be entitled to $400,000 for it.
Equitable Distribution States
While some states rely on community property laws, the vast majority are equitable distribution states.
Property division in equitable distribution states tends to be a more complicated matter.
You and your spouse can resolve the case by agreeing on who gets the assets, or the court can make the decision for you.
If it ends up that the court has to determine how to divide the assets, it will try to be equitable.
However, that does not necessarily imply a 50/50 split.
In situations where one spouse bought the house before the marriage and kept it as a separate asset during the marriage, they will keep the house.
However, if the other spouse moved into such a house and began contributing to the upkeep and the mortgage, then the house can be deemed a marital asset.
For example, Susan buys a house before she meets and marries Donald.
After the wedding, Donald moves into the house and begins paying part of the mortgage and upkeep.
The house in such a scenario can move from being owned solely by Susan to become a marital asset.
In equitable distribution states, deciding who owns the house and how it balances against the other marital assets can become tricky.
For some couples, an out of court agreement can provide a more palatable way to deal with the matter.
For example, one spouse may decide to relinquish their stake in the house for more interest in another asset.
In cases where a spouse may desire the house but can’t afford to maintain it, such bargaining is more beneficial.
Leaving the marriage with an asset you can sustain is better than winning the battle for the property only to sell your house online here because its upkeep is too costly.
Factors a Judge Considers When Awarding the House
Each state has laws that outline factors a judge ought to consider our rule out when deciding on the house.
The reason behind keeping the home for both spouses is the main issue the court considers.
If one spouse wants to retain the home to raise the kids in it while the other wants out, then it becomes more about the numbers.
If both partners want to keep the house, though, the court will assess the needs of each spouse and make a ruling.
Who Gets the House?
Getting a divorce can be strenuous on your emotions and finances, and such extreme circumstances can cloud your judgment during proceedings.
When it comes to settling who gets the house in a divorce, you need to understand the factors the law takes into account.
The state you live in and how that impacts the ownership status of the home contributes significantly to who ends up with the property.
Do you want to learn more about family matters? Check out the rest of your content for insights that can help improve your life.