You may have been one of those couples who bought a house together to live in before you even got married. You may have great sentimental attachment to your home, especially if you have spent a number of years fixing it up to suit your tastes.

Nevertheless, as attached to the house as you may be, if you and your spouse are going through a divorce, you have to make some difficult decisions, including what to do about the house. Unless you have a prenuptial agreement that includes provisions for the ownership of the house, you and your partner will either negotiate for it or allow the courts to determine what will happen to it.

Equitable division and your home

There are many reasons why you may want to remain in your home after the divorce. For example, you may not want to move your children out of their school district, or you may want to postpone the stress of selling the house, packing and moving after the upheaval of a divorce. Negotiating to retain ownership of the home is a delicate matter.

Since Michigan is an equitable distribution state, you and your spouse will each get a fair portion of your joint property, which the court will determine based on your income, personal assets, your potential to earn money and other factors. This does not necessarily mean you will both receive an equal share of the marital assets, but it may allow you to negotiate if it is important to you to keep the home.

What choices do I have?

Some options you may consider as you work through property division include the following:

  • Trading your spouse for a combination of other assets of comparable value, such as vehicles, stocks or vacation homes
  • Paying your spouse his or her share of the fair market value of the home to gain full ownership of the property
  • Creating a contract for continued co-ownership, including terms for making mortgage payments, determining when it is appropriate to sell the house and dividing the proceeds of the sale

It is critical to remember that retaining ownership of the family home means you will be responsible for the mortgage, upkeep, utilities, taxes and other expenses that go with home ownership. You should be certain your post-divorce budget can handle this before you fight for the house. You may find the more practical resolution is to sell the house and make a fresh start. An attorney can help you negotiate for the best option for your circumstances.