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Determining what to do with your home in a divorce

The largest asset that many divorcing couples need to figure out how to deal with is the house. When they have a mortgage on that house, as is often the case, determining how to handle it can make matters even more complicated.

There are a number of ways in which couples choose to handle the division of the home. The choice is an individual one that they need to make based on their credit, their overall financial situation and whether one of them wishes to remain in the home.

If one spouse wants to remain in the home, that person generally needs to qualify for a mortgage alone. In most cases, the other spouse wants his/her name off the mortgage.

If you want to keep the house and take on the mortgage yourself, it's important to determine not just whether you can qualify on your own for a mortgage, but whether you will have the financial resources to pay the taxes, maintenance costs and utilities for the property.

If you're going to be receiving spousal and/or child support and plan to count that as income when applying for a mortgage, it's important to remember that many lenders will want to see at least six months' worth of that income before counting it.

In some cases, the spouse that's walking away from the home will agree to remain on the mortgage long enough for the other person to qualify on his/her own for an individual mortgage. However, as one family law attorney points out, "The longer you're in bed financially with someone, when it comes to divorce, you're just asking for trouble."

The decision about what to do with your family home is a significant part of the divorce process. Many couples decide for financial and/or emotional reasons to sell it and split the profits. Your family law attorney can help advise you regarding what is best for you and can help you work to achieve your goals regarding the home in your settlement. However, it may be worthwhile to consult a mortgage professional as well.

Source: New York Times, "Divorce and the Shared Mortgage," Lisa Prevost, accessed Nov. 25, 2015

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Commandments of Family Law

  1. The only truth your children need to know is that you both love them unconditionally, and that this isn't their fault.
  2. Take the high road — everyone wins when you do what's best for your kids.
  3. Negotiate but don't capitulate — if you are being pushed toward something detrimental for your children, stand your ground.
  4. You can only control yourself and how you respond. Don't engage.
  5. Do set up rules and responsibilities. Kids feel better when routine is continued.
  6. You are still their parent — don't be afraid to be one.
  7. Disneyland is in California, not in your home. Don't set up unreasonable expectations.
  8. It is not their job to take care of you. Repeat that to them. Often.
  9. Yelling is for sports — not court. Good lawyers strongly advocate without being disrespectful to opposing parties.
  10. Fair is a place you go to get cheese curds. Aside from that, nothing in life is fair.

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