Home is where the heart is, but when hearts break and a married couple in Lakeland divorces, who gets to keep the family home is a primary concern. If you want to raise your children in the environment they are familiar with, you are sentimentally attached to the family home or simply view the family home as a valuable asset it may be tempting to keep the family home in a divorce.
Before going for the family home in a divorce, you will want to make sure you understand what is involved in the property division process in Florida. You will also want to make sure you can afford homeownership once the divorce is finalized. By keeping these factors in mind, you can make informed decisions regarding the family home that are in your best interests.
Property division laws in Florida
Some states in the U.S. are “community property” states. This means that when marital property is divided in a divorce, each spouse has an equal interest in that property. Marital property in community property states is generally split 50/50.
Florida is not a community property state. Florida is an “equitable distribution” state. While each spouse still has an equal ownership interest in marital property, if there is justification for an uneven division of assets then the assets will be divided based on what is fair and equitable, even if this does not lead to an exact 50/50 split. This applies to all marital assets, including the family home if it was purchased while you were married.
Steps to take if you want to keep the family home
There are steps to take if you want to keep the family home following your divorce. First, you will want to determine how much equity you and your spouse have in the home. To do so, you take the home’s value, as agreed upon by you and your spouse, and subtract what remains of your mortgage to arrive at the total equity in the home. Then this amount can be divided based on equitable distribution laws. It can help to obtain an independent valuation of your home so you and your spouse can come to an agreement on how much it is worth.
Second, you will want to make sure you can afford to buy out your spouse’s share in the home’s equity, so you can keep the home for yourself following your divorce. Oftentimes this means exchanging the family home for assets of an equal value in the property division process. You can also obtain financing if eligible to buy out your spouse’s share in the home or you can buy out your spouse using cash or other liquid assets, if you have them.
Remember the costs of homeownership
Even if you are awarded the family home in your divorce, can you afford the costs of homeownership? Homeownership is expensive. You will need to pay the mortgage, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, property taxes and repair and upkeep all on a single income. Costs that used to be shared between two incomes will now rest on your shoulders. In addition to income you earn at work, you may have investments, savings and possibly spousal support to supplement your finances. For some people this is enough to allow them to comfortably keep the family home. For other people it is not, and they will have to consider selling the family home in the property division process and splitting the proceeds with their spouse.
Know your options if you want to keep the family home
If you want to keep the family home following your divorce, it is important to understand the steps needed to do so. Can you and your spouse agree on how much equity you have in the home? Can you afford a buy-out? Can you afford homeownership on a single income? Remember, if the answer to any of these steps is “no” then it may be time to consider other options, such as selling the home. Do not rush through the property division process, especially when it comes to an asset as valuable as the family home. With careful consideration, you can make decisions in your divorce that are in your best financial interests.