If you own a house, it is likely your most valuable asset — and one that can’t simply be cut in half. As such, when going through a divorce, it’s important to understand the details of how you and your spouse can divide the property.
Here are answers to some questions you may have that will help you understand what happens to your house after a divorce.
Who is the legal owner?
The main factor in determining who owns the house after a divorce is who owned the house while you were married. If you bought the house while you were married, then you both own it.
“Arizona is a community property state, which means that courts view all property and assets acquired during the marriage as community property,” local law firm DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC says.
If only one of you owned it before the marriage and never added the other person to the mortgage or deed, nor used shared money to pay the mortgage, then the same person still owns the house. However, if your separate and shared properties were mixed, you may both be considered owners.
“For example, if a spouse who was the sole owner of the family home before the marriage changes the title to community property or uses marital funds to pay the mortgage, a court would consider this evidence that the owner intended to make a ‘gift’ of the home to the marital community,” Divorce Net says.
Will the house need to be sold?
You may choose to continue owning the house together, perhaps, so your children can continue living in it or to keep it as an investment property. In these cases, the debt needs to be assigned to one spouse, with the caveat that the other spouse could still be held responsible for it.
“Couples dividing debts should be aware that their separation agreement or divorce order is not binding on creditors, who may continue trying to collect a community debt from either spouse,” Divorce Net says.
Because you may prefer not to share property, you can choose for one of you to be the sole owner. In that case, “that person will generally have to compensate the other spouse, so the division represents a 50/50 split,” DeShon Laraye Pullen says.
A third option is to sell the house and divide whatever money is left after you pay off the mortgage.
How do negotiations work?
You can have a judge decide how your assets, including the house, are divided. Generally, your community property will be divided equally and your separate property will stay with each respective owner. The judge’s decision is final.
Alternately, you can come to an agreement without getting a judge involved.
“Reaching an out-of-court settlement agreement with your spouse is always more efficient and economical, as well as less stressful and emotionally draining,” DeShon Laraye Pullen says. “Relatively amicable, affordable and mutually empowering processes such as mediation, negotiation, or collaborative divorce might interest you.”
No matter the option you choose, a divorce lawyer can represent you throughout the process.
DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC encourages cooperation to resolve divorce issues economically and efficiently and is also well-equipped to represent you in an adversarial divorce case. For more information and to schedule an initial consultation, visit DeShonPullenLaw.com.