Who Gets The House?

Unfortunately, when people get divorced there is often a battle over the many possessions that have been obtained over the course of their marriage, whether long or short. Both parties are always aiming to keep those things most precious or valuable to them. In the case of many people, and I venture to say most, the house is the most precious and valuable thing that is destined to be fought over.

Financially alone, the house is often the most valuable asset a couple will have, assuming time has been spent paying the mortgage or if the house is paid off. In addition, many can get caught up in the nostalgia of things, showing appreciation for the many memories made in the house over the years. Throw some children into the mix and it gets even tougher to separate from the house.

Before a divorce without any court action, one spouse cannot force another to leave the marital home. A court can grant pendente lite exclusive occupancy to one of the spouses before any trial on the merits or final judgment. This decision is brought on by the motion of one of the parties.

So, who gets the house, or who at least gets to stay in the house? There are several factors that will come into play. If you are going to make a run at staying in the house after a divorce, a person should make sure to have good reason. Selling (or not selling) a house is a huge decision, so one should make sure their reasons are sound and that keeping the house is the best decision. Often, the kids are the biggest factor in the fate of the house. With so much change, something stable during it all is a strong argument to keep the house. Therefore, the custody arrangement could play a large part in who would get the house. The emotional argument will always be considered, but technically both parties could argue many of the same points in this regard, having both grown together in the house.

Hopefully, the quickest and best solution is the easiest: the spouses can figure it out together. If they are able to agree on how to divide the property, that makes the jobs of lawyers and judges that much easier. It’s often in the best interest of all parties if they are able to figure it out together. This allows for both parties to play a part in where their house goes, along with the rest of the assets, and if they have a part in the decision they are more likely to be happy with it. The alternative is having some stranger( a judge) with very little knowledge of the people and life they’ve lived in this house deciding who gets to keep things.

If you are fighting for your house, make sure you do your research. One very important thing that will play in a court’s decision, and should control yours, is financial stability for yourself and for your children. Are you able to afford the house? Can you cover the bills, and the maintenance, and the emergencies by yourself? Many stay-at-home parents face these difficult questions since they have spent the majority of their recent life in the house that they now have no means of affording. Can they get to a place where they have the necessary income to support the house and their self, without the help of their spouse? The stay-at-home spouse may be able to obtain child support and alimony. [See other articles on this website concerning child support and alimony.] Also, for families with infants below age two, the stay-at-home spouse is not required to become employed. Where custody is granted to one spouse, the courts have authority to grant use and possession to that spouse for a minimum of three years, with a few exceptions.

Oddly enough, even after the divorce the parties can still keep the house. One reason for this goes back to the children in an effort to maintain the stable environment until the children reach 18. This could be the best financial decision for the two parties as well. If this route is taken, the parties should clearly define the financial status of the house and define the responsibilities for payments, taxes, repairs, and maintenance.

Another answer could be… No one. The judge or the parties may all reach the only logical conclusion that selling the house is the best decision for everyone. The kids will make a new home, the spouses will get a new start and the marital assets can be more easily divided, thereby providing both parties more seed money for new direction.

This question is much like the many other topics of family lawand the courts handle each family in a case by case basis. No situation is the same, and the courts must look at all the facts in making their decisions.

If you are going through a divorce and hope to keep the home you live in, contact Fred Antenberg immediately to discuss your situation. Fred is a Family Law Attorney in Howard County and who works also in surrounding Maryland counties. Fred is available for a FREE Consultation at (410)-730-4404. CONTACT US today!