Will The Family Home Need to Be Sold in Divorce?

Selling the family residence is a common necessity in divorce cases.

Divorce Can Force Home Sale
by Honorable Anne Kass. Ann Kass is a District Judge in the Second Judicial District State of New Mexico

One unfortunate but frequent consequence of divorce is the sale of the family residence.

The most common reasons that require selling the family home include:

  • The home was recently acquired and the mortgage payment is very large. Because a second home must be established, it will no longer be possible to devote such a large amount of the parties' combined incomes to one housing expense.
  • There is a very large equity in the home, and neither party can afford to buy out the other's share.
  • One of the parties, most often the wife, has been out of the work force for a number of years, and an education program must be funded to enhance her earning capacity. More often than not, that education cannot be financed from existing income, and an asset must be sold to accomplish the goal.
  • The parties' engage in inappropriate or unreasonable behavior that generates enormous legal fees that require the sale of an asset to make payment possible.

Divorce is a financial trauma that no one ever plans or saves for.

When extra funds are needed, sale of the family home, generally the most readily saleable item owned by the parties, is the most practical, and sometimes the only, solution.

Many times, one or both parties resist selling the family home. There are reasonable even compelling arguments against doing so, such as:

  • The children need as much consistency as a possible, and selling their home just adds to the pain and disruption already created by the divorce.
  • If the home was recently acquired, the costs of sale always take a big chunk of the cash equity. Sometimes there isn't enough cash equity to pay the costs of the sale, and the sale itself will create another debt.
  • The parties often have a strong emotional attachment to the family residence, and selling it is an anguish.
  • Parties with limited earning capacities, particularly women, recognize the reality that if the existing family residence is sold, they will not likely have the credit capacity to ever acquire another.

Owning a home is the American dream, which sometimes vanishes when divorce occurs.

All of these arguments are important, real and persuasive. Unhappily the financial reality of many divorcing people renders sale of the family residence unavoidable.

Sometimes, if one party resists that result and refuses to agree or cooperate to in the sale, large legal fees are generated to force the issue, which of course makes the result that much more tragedy.

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