Divorcing spouses frequently consider the home to be at the core of asset division, especially because a house may have the highest value among a couple's possessions. However, the greatest motivation to fight for the house is often its sentimental value. At such a tumultuous or uncertain time in life, divorcees may wish to hold on to the security and familiarity of their house.
Despite the personal or monetary value that the house could have, keeping a property isn't always advantageous. As with most decisions in a divorce settlement, it's important to consider the big picture.
In many divorces, spouses divide their assets roughly in half. This would mean that if a wife keeps a $200,000 house, she may relinquish the same value in other marital assets like savings or furniture. She could instead agree to take on extra debt leftover from the marriage to cover its value. If the house was both spouses' priority, she might also accept an unfavorable settlement in order to win the house.
However, a house is not the same type of asset as a savings account, for example. The wife who kept the marital home must now pay maintenance costs, association fees and the remaining mortgage. Each month, these costs can quickly add up and could hurt her ability to save for retirement, for example. If she struggles to afford these payments, she cannot easily or quickly liquidate the house for its original value.
Spouses who plan to be the primary caregiver for their children might still have good reason to want the house, however. Similarly, each spouse's job security and income level may affect whether the home could be a financial risk.
Ultimately, keeping a house after divorce is neither always helpful nor always harmful. Because this decision depends on multiple factors, divorcees should consult a family law attorney with the details of their circumstances.