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What Happens to the Family Home in a Michigan Divorce?

BY IN Divorce

You were in love, and then you married. You bought a house together because your first child was on the way.  Life became busy, and suddenly you realize that you have had a lot of conflicts, and those conflicts are not being resolved. Eventually, conflicts turn into fights, and here you are: reading a divorce attorney’s blog on what will happen to your house.

So…what can you expect to happen with your house?

To your defense: how would you know what will happen with your 401k, your house, and most importantly with your kids?  You know what you want, but does that mean you’ll get what you want?

That’s where the attorneys at Kraayeveld Law come in. There are no guarantees in divorce; but experience does provide for realistic estimates and expectations.

Our attorneys will discuss and help you with two important considerations during this process:  your wishes and what’s best for you, and secondly, they will discuss what a judge may order in your case. 

Four Considerations to Keep in Mind When Deciding What to Do with Your Home 

Many of our clients find that they have bad memories associated with the home, and the bad memories will not offset the good memories.  You also may want to consider your support system where your home is located.  While you were married, you had a spouse who could pick up the children from school or daycare.  After your divorce, will you have family or friends in the local geographical area that can help you, or should you move closer to your family?

After you determine the emotional value of the home,the second step is to consider if you are financially able to stay in the home.  Several things will change after the divorce. First, the overall household expenses may double (two homes; two sets of utilities; two sets of clothes for the kids). Secondly, your disposable income may change.  You may not be able to work the same amount of hours or overtime now that you are spending more time with your children.  Or you may be ordered to pay child support and/or spousal support, and if you receive spousal support, it may be temporary or for a limited term.

The third step is to determine the equity in the home.  If you want to stay in the house after the divorce, you will need to pay your spouse his or her share of the equity that accumulated during the marriage. You may be able to refinance the mortgage, or you may be able to provide your spouse with a greater share of other assets to reach an equitable division.  

The fourth concern is whether you will qualify to refinance the mortgage.  If you want to remain living in the home, your spouse will likely want his or her name removed from the mortgage so that they can apply for another mortgage when they buy a home.  You should talk to a mortgage lender to determine whether you qualify for refinancing (and can possibly pay off of your spouse’s share of equity).

Lastly, during our consultation and representation, we will discuss Michigan law, the legal process, and the range of results if the judge decides your case.

How Will the Courts Decide?

The judge has several options when dividing marital assets, such as the house.  The judge’s division of the assets must be equitable, which means fair.  Sometimes the judge will award the house to one spouse, who must refinance the mortgage to pay the other spouse with his or her share of the equity and to remove the other spouse from the liability of that mortgage. 

If neither spouse qualifies for the refinancing of the home for an increased mortgage amount, then the judge may order the spouses to list the home for sale, and the equity in the home will be divided at closing. Even if both spouses want ownership of the home, or they are unable to agree on the value of the home, the judge may order the home to be sold. 

Michigan law provides the judge with guidelines on how to divide the property equitably, and our website provides more information about this property division.   

These are some of the steps that your attorneys will review with you.  Each divorce is different and comes with unique challenges.  You may need to consider the attorney fees you will have to spend to stay in the home.  You may want to consider how you will benefit from receiving other assets instead, such as a retirement fund.  

Let Our Grand Rapids Divorce Attorneys Help You Protect Your Marital Home 

There are good reasons to request an award of the marital home:  it provides stability for the children, it may be a generational heirloom with familial memories, or it just may be a sound investment.  Regardless of your reasons, if you want to stay in the marital home, contact the attorneys at Kraayeveld Law to plan a strategy for your divorce.  Call our Grand Rapids family law firm at 616-285-0808.