Like most decisions during a divorce, the next steps for the marital home include both practical and emotional decisions. As New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, neither party in a divorce automatically gets 50% of the house. Instead, there are many arrangements that you and your former spouse can make regarding that property as long as both parties receive a “fair” value of the total marital assets.
Whether you want to keep or sell the home and split the proceeds with your former spouse, think through some of the following issues before committing to one path of action:
- Do you have children? In the large majority of divorce cases involving older children, the court will award the marital home to the parent with primary custody of the children. This allows the kids to finish high school in their familiar school, peer group and home. However, you can still seek another arrangement if living in that house is not a good fit for you and your kids.
- Can you sustain the home with one income? The financial changes after a divorce can make it unrealistic for you to maintain your house even if spousal support supplements your income. Carefully think through whether your income will cover the mortgage, New Jersey’s property taxes, repairs and maintenance on the home, and heating or cooling the house. For many people, downsizing in the divorce process is a smarter financial decision.
- How practical is your home for your new lifestyle? Divorce can be painful, and keeping the marital home often helps people feel that they have won something. But do not let that emotion get in the way of your happiness post-divorce. How well does your house match the lifestyle you would like to have? Is it convenient regarding your work? Are there other houses available that are a better fit?
Remember that both parties of divorce have a right to keep living in the marital home until the final divorce ruling. On the other hand, leaving the marital home for your safety during the divorce process does not relinquish your ability to fight for the home if you would like to continue living there post-divorce.