Divorce and the Family Home
FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYS PROTECTING THE INTERESTS OF ATLANTA RESIDENTS
A family home is often a couple’s single largest asset. There may be warm sentiments attached to a home that has been lived in for a long time, and it may be the only home that your children have known. Consequently, the thought of losing it during a divorce may be troubling. If you need assistance and advice deciding whether or how to dispose of or retain a family home in the Atlanta area, you can consult the lawyers at Rowsey & Stelter. We have extensive experience representing individuals in these family law matters, and we can tenaciously advocate for your interests.
DETERMINING POSSESSION OF THE FAMILY HOME
In rare cases, a family home is owned by one spouse as separate property. However, in most cases, a family home is part of the marital assets that are subject to division in divorce. Under Georgia law, marital assets are divided equitably between the spouses, which means fairly but not necessarily exactly equally.
Frequently, a couple does not own the family home outright but instead carries a mortgage on it. But whether the couple has equity in the home (that is, the home’s value is greater than the outstanding debt) or the house is a liability, it constitutes an asset that must be divided upon divorce. There are several ways to do this:
- Sell the home and divide the proceeds;
- Allow one spouse to buy out the other spouse;
- Let one spouse keep the home, while the other spouse takes other assets; or
- Keep the home and make arrangements for division of proceeds upon its future sale.
Unfortunately, the first option is the only realistic option for many couples, particularly if the house constitutes their most valuable marital asset. The second option is only possible if either spouse can afford to buy out the other spouse’s interest, including taking on any outstanding debt.
The third case presents other issues of potential concern. If the couple has other significant assets in terms of investments, bank accounts, retirement funds [link to Pension Plans page], or additional real estate, it may be possible for one spouse to retain the family home but forego claims on other assets. However, the spouse who opts to retain the home must make a careful assessment of whether that is truly in his or her best financial interests. While a home may be valuable, it is not liquid and comes with liabilities in the form of taxes, costs of maintenance, and any outstanding debts. Unless a spouse can afford to keep and maintain the house while still providing adequately for other needs—including extraordinary expenses, saving for retirement, college tuition for children, and so on—that spouse needs to seriously evaluate whether retaining the family home is truly worth foregoing other important interests.
The final option of keeping the family home in joint ownership requires both spouses to maintain workable financial ties to each other. However, for couples with young children, this may be the most attractive option, so that the children’s lives are less disrupted by forcing them to leave their home on top of dealing with a divorce. The couple can agree to hold title together but let one spouse live in the house, and they can defer its sale until some later time upon which the proceeds will then be divided. In the meantime, the spouses must allocate the expenses of the mortgage, insurance, and upkeep between themselves, taking into account that one of them will benefit from being able to continue to live in the house.
CONTACT AN ATLANTA LAWYER FOR ADVICE ON YOUR DIVORCE
Divorce is always difficult, particularly when you realize that you may not only have to let go of things from your marriage that you do not want, but also things that you love dearly, such as the family home. In this emotional time, you may need knowledgeable advice in helping you to make critical decisions for your own and your family’s financial future. For help in resolving what to do with the family home in your divorce proceeding, call the Atlanta attorneys at Rowsey & Stelter. We can be reached at (770) 993-5317 or through our online form for a free consultation. Our firm also represents individuals in Alpharetta, Roswell, Milton, and Sandy Springs, among other Georgia communities.