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How does the court determine who keeps the house in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2023 | Family Law |

When a married couple decides to part ways, one of the most significant questions that arise is who gets to keep the family home. This decision can be emotionally charged and financially complex.

The decision of which spouse keeps the home ultimately falls under the jurisdiction of the court. You can know what to expect by exploring the factors and processes involved in determining who retains ownership of the house in a divorce.

Property ownership

First and foremost, the court examines the legal ownership and title of the house. If the home is solely in one spouse’s name, it generally remains their property. However, if the names of both spouses are on the title or if one spouse acquired the property during the marriage, things can get more intricate.

Marital property

In many cases, the family home is marital property. This means that the couple jointly acquired it during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on the title. In such instances, the court is likely to split the property equitably between the spouses. Equitable distribution does not always mean a 50/50 split, but it aims to be fair and just based on a variety of factors.

Contributions and financial matters

The court takes into account the financial contributions of each spouse toward the home. This includes mortgage payments, property taxes and maintenance costs. Non-financial contributions like home improvements or renovations are important as well. The spouse who made more financial and non-financial contributions may have a stronger claim to the house.

Custody of dependent children

When there are dependent children involved, the court often prioritizes their well-being. A judge may award the house to the custodial parent to provide stability and continuity for the children. This decision aims to minimize disruption to their lives during the divorce process.

Ability to maintain the home

The court also evaluates each spouse’s ability to maintain the home post-divorce. This assessment includes factors like income, assets and debts. If one spouse can prove that they can afford to take on the financial responsibilities associated with the house, they may be more likely to retain ownership.

Statistics show that 53.4% of divorcing couples in 2022 owned their own homes. This means that determining the fate of a house is an issue in the majority of divorces. There are processes in place to ensure a fair decision regarding this all-important asset distribution conundrum.



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