New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, meaning marital property is divided in a manner the court deems fair. This includes the marital home, assuming you and your spouse purchased it while married. Depending on the circumstances of your divorce, you and your spouse may decide to sell the marital home and split the profit from the sale. Alternatively, you can prioritize this in the settlement process. However, it is essential that you consider several factors, including whether you can afford the costs associated with keeping and maintaining the home.
How Do I Determine Whether I Can Afford to Stay in the House?
Before deciding to keep the house, it is important that you consider a range of factors. The following are additional expenses you may be responsible for as the homeowner:
- Home repairs like replacing the roof or the boiler, HVAC repairs, or making other structural repairs to the home
- Home improvement projects like replacing the roof, updating the kitchen appliances, renovating the kitchen or bathrooms, or painting the interior or exterior of the house
- Utility expenses
- Homeowners insurance
- Landscaping maintenance
- Snow removal
What Other Factors Should I Consider?
In addition to the financial burden associated with keeping the house, other important factors may impact your decision to stay in the marital home, including the following:
- If your spouse generally handles most maintenance issues, either by fixing them or through supplemental income, you will be responsible for repairing things that break by learning how to fix things or hiring someone to do it.
- If the home’s value depreciates, recouping your investment may take years. It may not make sense financially to keep the house. A realtor may provide an estimate of the fair market value of your home at no charge. You can pay for a certified real estate appraisal to get a more accurate figure.
- You may quickly realize that you do not need the space that your house has.
- If your reasons for keeping the house are largely sentimental, consider the positive aspects of selling the house and starting fresh in a space you can comfortably afford.
- If you have considerable expenses you must plan for, including college tuition for your children, the costs associated with keeping the house can make it difficult to set aside enough money for those expenses.
How Does the Court Decide Who Keeps the House in a Divorce?
The house is considered marital property unless you or your spouse purchased the home before you married. If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement about what to do with the house and how other marital assets should be divided, the judge will decide after considering a range of factors, including but not limited to:
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age and health of each spouse.
- The income and property that each spouse brought to the marriage.
- The standard of living the couple enjoyed during the marriage.
- The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time of the divorce.
- The income and earning capacity of each spouse.
- The contributions each spouse made to the property.
- The debts and liabilities of each spouse.
- Child custody and the economic needs of the children.
What Are Possible Options for Distributing the Marital Home?
Even if you ultimately decide to stay in the marital house, considering all options is in your best interest. The following are three ways that the home may be divided during the divorce process:
- Sell the house and split the proceeds. If you decide to sell the house, the proceeds will be divided equitably between you and your spouse. If you cannot agree on how much each of you should receive from the sale proceeds, it may become necessary to go to court, where a judge will decide based on the principles of equitable distribution.
- Keep the house and buy out your spouse. If you decide to keep the house, you may have to buy out your spouse’s equity in the home. You may need to refinance the mortgage if the home is not owned outright. These details will be determined as part of the divorce agreement.
- Maintain joint ownership. Sometimes, couples decide to maintain joint ownership for a certain period.
Our Freehold Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Assist Clients With Every Phase of the Divorce Process
If you and your spouse are getting a divorce and have questions about the marital home, contact our Freehold divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. To schedule a free consultation, call 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville, Morristown, and Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, Morris Plains, and Monmouth County.