What options are available when dealing with the family home?

This article looks at the advantages and disadvantages to selling or keeping the house during divorce.

If there is one asset that causes more angst and anxiety in a divorce than any other, it is usually the family home. In many cases, the family home is not only the largest asset a couple going through divorce has, it is also the one that divorcing parties have the most emotional attachment to. As Time points out, most financial advisors caution against holding onto the family home "at all costs." The home is, after all, an expensive asset to maintain and does not appreciate in value as reliably as a 401(k) or other investment vehicles do. However, there are instances where holding onto the family home may be a practical choice.

When to sell

Selling the home and splitting the proceeds is, indeed, often the most practical solution to the question of "Who gets to keep the house?" With the house sold, there is no sense that one spouse "won" the house while the other spouse "lost." Furthermore, maintaining a house that was meant for two or more people is often difficult to do on a single income, even after potential spousal maintenance and child support payments are factored in.

The real estate market is volatile and there is no guarantee that one's property will actually increase in value. Other investment vehicles, like mutual funds, 401(k)s, and pensions, offer a better rate of return with fewer risks. Furthermore, selling the house can usually be done fairly quickly so long as there are enough prospective buyers in one's neighborhood. The faster the house can be sold, the easier it is the move on with one's life after the divorce.

When to keep the house

While the largely financial arguments against holding onto the house are strong, there are other considerations to factor in as well. In cases where the divorcing couple has children it may be in the best interests of the children for them to stay in the same house. As Realtor.com points out, staying in the same house will mean that the children can stay in the same school and keep their friends, thus making the fallout from the divorce less disruptive to their lives.

Additionally, the house may have been in one's family for generations, which can make selling it especially difficult. Of course, in this situation the other spouse will still have to be given an asset of similar value to the house in order for the divorce settlement to be fair.

Legal advice during divorce

Divorce raises many legal and financial issues that can be exceedingly complex to resolve on one's own. That's why anybody going through divorce should contact a family law attorney for help. An experienced attorn ey can advise clients on their legal rights during the divorce process and how to negotiate a divorce settlement that protects their best interests.