The Marital Home is Often a Major Issue in Divorce
For many couples the marital home – called the “marital residence” by the Courts, is a major issue. Mom wants to keep the house for the kids. Dad says, “Can’t afford it.” Dad wants to keep the house for the kids. Mom says, “Can’t afford it.” Dad says to Mom, “You need to keep the house for the kids.” Mom says, “It’s too big. I can’t take care of it.” Mom says to Dad, “You kee it, I can’t afford it.” And so forth.
The Marital Home is A Financial Investment
For many couples the marital home is an investment. Years of weekends and late nights went into improving it. Every month when you pay that mortgage you build a little bit more equity. Gardening, painting, maybe a new bathroom or a new kitchen. Each of these is money put into a financial investment for the future. Maybe you bought at the top of the market. If you sell now you will have to pay the bank more than you will get from the sale. What to do now?
The Marital Home is an Emotional Investment
What is the marital residence, really? Most importantly — it has been a home for a family. A family of parents, children, cats, dogs. Maybe grandma or grandpa lives there too. It is the daily center of years of memories, hopes, and dreams. Daily life for a family is centered in the marital home. With divorce somebody is moving out. Maybe everybody is moving out. It is difficult to sort out the parts of this problem. It is difficult to separate the financial from the emotional issues.
So, what really is the marital home?
So, is a house a home or is a home a house? The reality is that the marital home in divorce is two things. It has been the home for a family to live and for children to grow up. That marital home can be an owned house, a rental apartment, or something else. That home is a nurturing place for children (and parents) to grow and develop. But a home can also be a house — a physical place that you have invested time and money in and hope to have a financial benefit in the future.
How Can We Resolve the Issues Around the Marital Home?
In resolving the issues around the marital home we need to first look at the economics. Who wants to stay in the house and why. If you have children in high school, and don’t want to disrupt their lives, that is a powerful reason to try to keep the house. If you have two children under 5, they won’t even remember the house in a couple of years. Perhaps the emotional upheaval of the divorce is as much as you can take. Selling the house and moving? That just pushes you over the edge.
No matter what, the keeping or selling the house is a financial decision. You and your spouse may disagree about what that means. You may disagree as to what you can afford to do. But a financial analysis lies at the base of that decision. Regardless of the emotional issues involved, if you can’t pull it off financially it is not going to work. So, we need to begin with that financial analysis.