Who Gets the House in a California Divorce?

Long Beach House Following Divorce

27 Oct Who Gets the House in a California Divorce?

Divorces can be very messy as well as stressful and exasperating. There can be so many issues to sort out at a time when communication can be hard, let alone co-operation. The main issues that do need to be worked out when leading up to a divorce are:

  • deciding who gets the house (presuming there is one);
  • dividing up the marital assets;
  • deciding about children: where they are going to live, who they are going to live with and who, when and how ex spouses get to visit with them;
  • arranging for spousal support and child support.

The longer a couple has been living together and the older they are the more difficult it is to sort out the issues mentioned above. This is simply because it is more likely a home has been bought, or at least is in the process of being bought, the more assets have been acquired, including a whole assortment of household goods and the more likely there are children of an age where separation can be traumatic for them as well as problematic for the parents.

Not all divorces need to be stressful and complicated. Some couples seem to be able to separate quite amicably and manage to sort out dividing up assets and looking after the kids without too much help. For the rest, advice, support and suggestions from family and friends may be of help together with legal help from a family law attorney when there is real disagreement about divorce issues.

One of the more challenging aspects to a divorce is deciding what to do about the family home. Like a lot of divorce issues, there are no hard and fast answers to this. Who owns the house? Is it jointly owned or is it owned by just one of the separating spouses? Is it practicable to find alternative accommodation for one or both spouses? How about the children, if any? Where are they going to live? If there is a joint mortgage on the house, who is going to keep paying it after the divorce or will it be sold either before or after the divorce? What about all the household and personal items in the house? Who owns them and how are they going to be divided?

Sharing a house may be an option temporarily

Sharing a house with a spouse that you are divorcing can be hard work, but not impossible as long as decisions about how the cost of maintaining it can be worked out until a more permanent arrangement is arranged. It may be the only practical solution until alternative accommodation is found for one of the spouses.

To share successfully during the divorce process means not only deciding on sharing the financial cost of running the house, but giving each other personal space. It may be that this is the best way for joint children to come to terms with their parents’ break up, although caring for kids is not going to be the same as it was before the divorce.

A family court may advise that this is the best option of there are minor children involved and the sale of the house may not be in their best interests.

It is unlikely that this will be a viable option if the reason for the break-up is because one of the spouses has found another partner and has chosen to move in with them. This doesn’t avoid having to sort out all the financial details at some point.

Alternatives if the house was “community property”

If a house has been bought or was being bought under a mortgage and both spouses’ names are on the title, then there are only a limited number of more permanent scenarios after a divorce:

  • one spouse buys out the other’s share. This may mean refinancing the house so that payments can be made by the spouse who is buying the other’s share.
  • The house is sold and the proceeds of the sale are shared equally between the two ex spouses.

If the house was only in a single spouse’s name, perhaps because it belonged to that person before marriage, then that person has the right to retain the house and the other will have to vacate it.

Sorting out housing can become a nightmare prospect for a divorcing couple. As there are many actors involved which may need legal intervention it can help to discuss the options with a family lawyer. The Law Offices of Damian Nolan in Orange County provide experienced and empathetic family law attorneys for those who need help in all matters pertaining to divorce and child custody.

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