This is often an emotionally difficult decision to make, especially when children are attached to their home, local school, and neighborhood friends. The decision to keep a house, however, should be based on practical considerations and whether it will be financially feasible to keep it. To determine this, the party seeking to stay should prepare a budget that accurately reflects all the household expenses, including the mortgage, property taxes, homeowners insurance, utilities, maintenance, landscaping, foreseeable necessary capital improvements, and any other costs. If there is substantial equity in the property, the party seeking to keep it may need a plan to release the other spouse from the mortgage, usually done by refinancing. If there is equity in the property, that plan would include how and when to pay the other spouse his or her share of that equity. If staying in the house means that the other spouse does not have sufficient assets to secure adequate housing, it may mean the house must be sold. In a negotiated settlement, some couples are able to reach a compromise by which one party continues to live in the marital home for a limited period of time or under limited circumstances that are acceptable to both parties and that allow all family members to have suitable housing and financial arrangements.
Amy Wechsler is a Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney in Warren, New Jersey and a partner with the law firm of Shimalla, Wechsler, Lepp & D’Onofrio, LLP.