Should I Keep or Sell the Matrimonial Home?

But “I” Want The Home

By: Randy Morrow

Certified Real-estate Divorce Specialist

The family home represents comfort and safety, and when divorce starts looming the immediate reaction is to look to that which is comfortable and safe.  The home.

This reaction is not gender-specific, although I don’t believe I would be courting any controversy if I said the wife is the partner who generally wants to keep the home, especially if children are involved.

Let’s assume it is the wife.  There is no doubt it is usually better for the family if the old family home remains the family home.  But (and this is a huge But) should she stay in the home?  Can she afford to stay in the home?

The decision to stay in the home is generally based on pure emotion.  Very little thought is placed on the reality of staying in the home.  This is where a professional becomes increasingly important.  They can add Reality to your surreal situation.

How, you ask?  By helping you compile a list of the financial obligations you will be facing.  In many cases, the husband may have been paying the bills and you just knew they were being paid without giving any real thought to the actual costs.  In today’s world, with so many women in the workforce and salary gaps gradually narrowing, the woman may have been paying the bills and the man has no clue.

Here are some items you MUST consider, they won’t go away just because you want them to.  You also must consider the ramifications.  For instance:

Insurance:  health, life, automobile.  OR, which one would you be willing to give up?

Utilities:  gas, water, oil, electricity, phone(s)—cell phones, home phone, internet, etc.

Groceries & eating out.  Just think about it, you might not have to go out to eat anymore.

Automobile:  Normal wear & tear repairs; fuel; norm maintenance; new tires.  And…how old is your current vehicle; how much longer will it last?

Home:  Age of the roof?  How long until the home needs to be repainted?  What is the current condition of the home?  In this day and age, is the mortgage higher than the value of the home if/when it comes time to sell?  Will you have the time or inclination to keep the yard mowed and hedges trimmed and flower beds de-weeded?

Clothing.  You AND the kids.  If the kids are under eighteen, it’s a safe bet they are constantly growing out of their size; fashions are changing; they are becoming more independent but still looking to you for spending money.

Children’s Extracurricular Activities.  No matter their age or where you live, the kids will be involved in some activity.  And there are always costs involved.  Hidden costs also, such as payment to see their games.  And don’t forget, your other kids will want to go also.

Credit.  Here’s one you probably haven’t thought about, especially if you have been the stay-at-home parent.  Have you kept established credit or have a current payment record?   Do you have perfect credit but your spouse has some ‘issues’?  This will affect you if you haven’t taken steps beforehand to separate yourself from them.

The Dreaded Unknown.  This is the worst category as far as I’m concerned.  Unknown can wreck every plan you’ve made in an instant, and at any time.  A plumbing leak for instance.  Maybe a fender bender in the car.  There is simply no way to accurately budget for the Unknowns.

None of this is what you want to hear; but if you lie to yourself or bury your head in the sand, the divorce will seem tame compared to the disaster to follow should you get the home and find out soon after that keeping the home was just not realistic.

Wait, you said, I’m going to be getting child support.  There are two things to think about: a) what if you don’t receive the payment? b) Remember, the other spouse is going to be facing the same adjustments you are.  Kind of risky to base your delicate financial balance on this, eh?

There are many more things to consider when making decisions about keeping the divorce home or selling it or consenting that the other spouse to have the home.  If you really want it, I hope things work out for you.  My hope is that you will now see this issue in a clear light and make a safe and sound decision for yourself and your children.

Deborah Moskovitch

This blog post was written by Deborah Moskovitch the author of "The Smart Divorce", the catalyst for this website. This evergreen book covers how to manage the divorce process for a less painful result.

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