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What happens to the family home in a divorce?

While the statistics suggest that more marriages are lasting longer, not every relationship will last a lifetime. In the event that a couple decides a divorce is the best option, there are many matters that need to be settled.  Though California has its own laws regarding property division, there are still three possible options regarding the family home.

The first of these choices is to sell the house and split the proceeds. If the home has experienced modest to moderate appreciation, then this option may be the most attractive to both parties. Each party can then take their half of the profits and use it to either pay down debt or in any other manner they choose. One possible drawback to selling the home could be if the value has risen enough that the sellers would then owe capital gains taxes. Conversely, if the home's value is not as much as the balance of the loan, then both parties may have to contribute to pay off the remaining mortgage unless the bank forgives the remaining liability.

Another choice would be for one of the former spouses to remain in the home. While this may sound like a workable compromise, it too, may have drawbacks. The mortgage would have to be either refinanced, which may be difficult if the new owner is not as creditworthy, or the spouse may attempt to assume the current loan with the lender's permission. This option may be costly as there is typically a fee, and it still requires that the new mortgagee is creditworthy enough to take over the payments. 

If one spouse remains in the home and chooses to refinance or assume the current mortgage, then the other spouse would need to sign a quitclaim deed in order to remove all interest in the home going forward. Every situation is different, and California residents may not be sure as to which decision is best for their circumstances. There are family law professionals who can help one decide on the best options for their current situation throughout the divorce process.

Source:, "What to do about your home in a divorce", Shawn Leamon, March 11, 2017

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