One of the many painful aspects of a divorce is the division of mutual assets. Very likely the most valuable asset you and your spouse had in common is the house. Deciding who gets the house and what to do with it is something that has to be thought through with care, especially if you were a stay-at-home mother who is looking at getting back into the workforce after a long time out of it.
Reasons for keeping the house
The temptation, especially if you have custody of the children, is to try to retain the house as part of the settlement. The sentiment is understandable. Divorce is difficult enough for the kids without having to move out of their childhood home as a result. Keeping the house provides a center of stability during a time that is fraught with chaos and uncertainty. Moving to a new home and possibly having to go to a new school can be traumatic for the children.
But keeping the house could become an unmanageable burden
The unfortunate truth is that, while a house can be a valuable asset, it can also be a financial burden, especially if your family income is taking a hit. Maintaining a home can be expensive. Everything from the air conditioner to appliances can break down and will need repairs and even replacing. Sometimes older houses will need foundation and roofing work done, both of which can be expensive. And the yard does not cut itself nor will any trees you might have on the property trim themselves. Add in property taxes and homeowner’s insurance, and you might have gotten yourself into a money pit.
Houses are also an illiquid asset in that they sometimes take a long time to sell. If an economic downturn happens, the value of the home may take a hit, and you will be left with a shortfall.
Consider giving up the house in exchange for other joint assets
With the prospect of getting a home that can be a drain on your financial resources, you should seriously consider giving it up in exchange for other assets you’ve held in common with your spouse. Alternatively, you could sell your house and move to an easier to manage smaller house or a condo.
The decision may prove to be an added aggravation on top of everything else that has to happen during a divorce. But you may find yourself gaining in the long run. You and any kids you have custody of will adapt to the new reality.