“Who gets the house?” If divorcing spouses each had a dollar for every time a friend, family member or total stranger asked that question, they’d be rich – right? The answer to this question may seem simple – and maybe it is simple, on the surface – but there are always important underlying considerations.
The current and historical value of the family home plays a central role in negotiating a fair and complete marital property settlement. You need to know the current value of the home and how much money is still owed on the mortgage before you can decide what to do with it. You may need to know the historical value of the house before you can decide what percentage of its current value should be yours.
Do not base your decisions about the family home on the value assessment conducted by your local property tax assessors. In almost every divorce case, a professional real estate appraisal or a comparative market analysis is a necessary step. Here are several reasons why:
- You need to know current selling value to decide whether to keep or sell the house.
- If you decide to sell the house, you need to know the current value in order to fairly divide the equity (once you’ve subtracted closing costs, mortgage payments and capital gains taxes, of course).
- If you decide that one spouse should keep and live in the house, you need to know the current value in order to calculate how much other marital property might go to the other spouse in return for giving up his or her share in the equity.
- If you lived together in a house one of you bought before the marriage, you need to know the value of the house when you got married in order to determine whether the house value increased during the marriage – because the value increase most of the time is considered marital property even if the house itself is the separate property of one of the spouses.
The reverse of all of these situations is also true. Sadly, in today’s economic climate, it may be necessary to conduct a house appraisal in order to get a true and accurate picture of the house as a debt instead of an asset.
New Jersey regulates real estate appraisers via the New Jersey Real Estate Appraisers Board.
Questions About Who Gets the House During a Divorce?
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At Lyons & Associates, we bring a high level of personalized service and attention to each of our clients, in every family law case we handle. To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777.