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What About The House? The Family Home and Divorce

Establishing separate living arrangements — including custody of the family home — is one of the most immediate concerns in divorce.  And since the home is often the couple’s most valuable marital asset, it also represents a significant property issue.

For now, how do I get my spouse to leave so I can stay in or return to my home?

If you own a home together (or if both names on a rental lease), you can request a court order giving you exclusive occupancy of the marital residence while the divorce is in process. The judge is most likely to give occupancy to the party who needs it most — the person who is the primary caretaker of the children, for example, or the person who is least able to afford another place to live.

Will I end up having to leave my home?

If you and your spouse have a settlement agreement establishing the terms of the divorce – or an existing legal separation agreement – the home will likely be awarded accordingly. Otherwise, it’s up to the court to divide marital property, presumed to include your home, according to New York’s Equitable Distribution Law.

The judge will want to establish the home’s value, the balance on the mortgage and the taxes. Each spouse’s probable future financial circumstances will be examined, including whether each has the resources to maintain the home independently.

The court may order that the home be sold and the proceeds divided between the spouses. This process can be delayed until a future date – for instance, after the children have graduated from high school.

For specific questions about your property rights in a divorce, contact a knowledgeable attorney.

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