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Division of Marital Assets

Who Gets the Family Home in Your California Divorce?

By May 14, 2010May 25th, 2016No Comments3 min read

In most California divorces, the family home is one of the biggest assets at stake in the divorce.  No matter what you do, remember that how your property is divided can affect you long after the divorce is final.

What Happens if One Spouse Keeps the House?

Option 1: The Buyout

If one of you does keep the home, then you’ll have to buy the other spouse out.  To buy out your spouse’s share, you might even things out by making trade-offs.  Often, the spouse keeping the house will give up a share in other community property with equal value.  As with your other assets, getting an accurate appraisal of the property’s value is critical.

Option 2: Sell Later

You may both agree (or the court could decide) to let one spouse continue living in the home, but only for a set period of time.  For example, the court might let one spouse stay in the property while the kids are still minors and living in the home.  The court will often require that spouse to pay the mortgage and related expenses.  When the house is later sold, the proceeds will be divided.  If your ex-spouse continues living in the home, then as your divorce lawyer we’ll seek important protections for you.

Before going either route, remember that by keeping the family home, you need to be sure you’ll be able to pay for the house and expenses after the divorce.  It’s crucial for the spouse who’s not keeping the home to require the other spouse to refinance under his or her name only.

Should you Both Sell the Home, Instead?

For many, a better option is to sell the house and split the proceeds.  According to a CBS blog, this seems to be the route taken by Sandra Bullock, who’s recently filed for divorce and has already put the Southern California family home up for sale.

When a divorcing couple has kids together, it’s common for the parent who will spend the most time with the kids to want to keep the house.  In any event, you shouldn’t automatically decide to try to hang on to the house.  It may not be your best option financially or strategically.  What’s more, you may be better off getting a fresh start in a new home that’s not tied down with old memories.

What if the House Can’t be Sold?

Sometimes, it’s not possible to sell the house.  It may be because of the real estate market, and/or because you don’t have any equity in the house.  This happens when the house is worth less than what’s owed on it due to the mortgage, secured lines of credit, and so on.  In these situations, we’ll coordinate with other professionals to find you the best options.  At times, this could involve bankruptcy.

What if One Spouse Puts Their Own Money Into the Home?

In California, most property you obtain while you’re married is called “community property.”  Identifying what’s community and what’s separate can get tricky when community and separate assets are mixed.  For example, a common scenario involves a spouse who used pre-marriage savings as a down payment on the family home.  We’ll examine your situation, because if this can be proven, a spouse might be entitled to a reimbursement.

Get Skilled Legal Help in Planning Your Divorce Settlement

If you and your spouse can’t come to a fair agreement in writing about what to do with the home, or can’t agree on its value, then the court will decide.  The same is true of vacation homes, other real estate, and your other assets.  We’ll always promote your best interests when negotiating with your spouse or advocating for you in court, and make sure you’re well informed of your options.  Contact your Minella Law Group divorce attorney at (619) 289-7948.