Property division is a big part of divorce in Texas. While many aspects of a divorce decree (child support, custody, visitation, maintenance) can be modified in the future to reflect changes in the parties’ lives, property division is more permanent. This permanency means preparation for settlement discussions, mediation, arbitration or trial is essential in the property division context. A divorce attorney can help you design a strategy to determine whether you should seek to keep the family home after your divorce becomes final. There are a number of factors that you should consider before determining whether to ask for the family home.
Costs of Home ownership
The Texas Family Code dictates that a judge must divide the community estate of the parties in a “just and right” manner in a divorce. However, a judge who only has a short amount of time in a trial to become familiar with each case will not be as familiar as the parties themselves to understand each party’s needs, desires and preferences for property division. As a result many divorcing couples and their attorneys are able to negotiate an equitable property division agreement outside of the courtroom. One big issue in many divorces is determining what to do with the family home.
Often, the spouse who will have primary custody of the children feels compelled to want to keep the family home. Everyone is already settled in, comfortable and attached to the home they have been living in. Despite emotional attachments, the financial commitment necessary to stay in the family home should be carefully considered.
Costs of home ownership that should be factored into what will in many cases be a far-reduced post-divorce budget include mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, utility bills, routine maintenance and an emergency fund for unexpected repairs. Each party also has to evaluate the other assets and debts in the estate to determine whether keeping the family home is economically viable under the circumstances. Keeping the home may be possible, but not wise depending on what you have to give up to receive the home. A home can be one of the most valuable assets a divorcing couple owns. To offset the community value of the home, the spouse who wants the home may have to give up their interests in other assets such as pension plans, 401(k) accounts, or other retirement assets to their spouse in order to achieve a fair division of the estate. In some cases, this cost can be too much to pay to keep the family home. In many cases it would be more prudent to sell the family home and downsize for the short term to give you a chance to get back on your feet financially.
Get Help Designing Your Strategy
Whether you want to try to keep the family home or get out from underneath the costs of your current home in a divorce, contact a Texas family law attorney. Your attorney can fully explain your options and help craft a strategy to help you get what you want in your divorce.