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Attachment to "beautiful" property could backfire in divorce

Some events in life are traumatic no matter how strong you might be. Among the most difficult events: sustaining a major personal injury or illness, getting fired and the death of a close friend. However, all of those crises are lower on the Holmes-Rahe life stress scale than divorce. Only the death of a spouse ranks higher than the end of your marriage.

Disputes over the division of marital property are among the most difficult family law disagreements to resolve, especially when those disputes involve significant assets.

We read recently of a 60-year-old woman who was just notified that her husband seeks a divorce. She notes that they "a beautiful million-dollar property" that she has been living in for the past year.

Her husband of 17 years wants to sell the property and she does not. She wrote to a pair of newspaper columnists (experts on real estate) about how she can construct a persuasive argument that would allow for development of the lot adjacent to the property -- and most important -- enable her to continue living there.

The columnists replied that sometimes in divorce, people become too attached to assets and that often those attachments work against them.

They urge her to step back from the situation and figure out what she would gain if the properties were sold and the proceeds distributed between her and her husband. Part of that equation would involve understanding how her taxes would be affected by keeping the property, the columnists wrote.

They urge her to understand the value of all of the marital property involved in her divorce -- real estate, as well as investments, cash, cars, 401(k) accounts, etc.

She should then sit down with a divorce attorney who can help her understand her legal and financial options. She would also be smart to discuss with the lawyer whether spousal support will factor into her divorce settlement.

Only after all the numbers have been crunched and options examined should she decide whether she is better off with a cash settlement or the property.

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