Who Gets the House in a Divorce?

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Who Gets the House in a Divorce?
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 3/28/2022

BLOGPOST_WhoGetsTheHouse03282022_s.jpgFinances are stretched thin during divorce. Parties will go from living under one roof on multiple salaries to requiring two of everything. The question – who gets to live in the house – is almost always relevant in a Washington dissolution. The answer is unfortunately dependent (as is everything) on the circumstances of the case along with the general financial capabilities of each party.

First and foremost, if the parties can amicably reside with each other during the pendency of the divorce, there is nothing requiring them to fight or move out in the early stages of the case. While this type of living arrangement is workable in some situations, in most situations the parties are divorcing because they cannot continue to cooperatively live in the same home. If the latter is true, then the parties either need to agree or go to court to decide living arrangements.

So, what will a Court look at when making a decision about the home?

What’s Best for the Kids?

Especially on temporary orders – in other words pending full resolution of the divorce – the Court first will look to maintain the status quo for the children. The Court likes to keep consistent living arrangements for the children. For example, if Susie was a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, it is more likely than not that Susie will be allowed to stay in the home with the children.

Which Spouse Can Most Easily Afford to Move?

This can be interpreted in many ways:

  1. Can only one spouse afford to live in the home and afford the mortgage?
  2. Does one spouse require spousal maintenance to afford the home?
  3. Are there other available living situations for the parties? (e.g., friends, family, etc.)
  4. Does one parent need the home for their employment? (e.g., maybe there is a workshop out back, or a chef’s kitchen for the caterer, etc.)
  5. Can one parent more easily afford to financially handle the costs of moving?

Should the Home be Sold?

Very rarely will a Court opt to sell a home except by agreement or at trial. The sale of a home is permanent. Forcing the parties to sell the home on temporary orders is usually a last resort if there is truly no other way to handle the costs of ownership. If the parties agree to sell the home, there may be no better options. Once the house is sold, the parties will often agree to provide an allowance to each other and for attorney fees. The remainder of the equity will usually sit in escrow or trust until there is a final agreement.

Do I Need an Attorney?

Discussing home possession is intricately involved with child custody, child support, and spousal maintenance. Plus, if the parties are considering a home sale, a major community asset will be destroyed. Family law attorneys are trained to understand the nuances of community property law. Consulting with an attorney prior to agreeing to terms related to the marital home is usually in your best interest. The experienced litigators at the law offices of Magnuson Lowell, PS are available. Call today for a free case evaluation!

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