What About The House?

Divorce Options for Dividing the Marital Home

During this difficult time, there are many questions you might be asking, including "Can I keep my house?" and "What are my options?" Speaking with a trusted professional and developing a deeper understanding of how divorce affects your situation is the first step.

Below are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about divorce and your home. 

Should I keep the house?

Sign spelling out the word home

If I am the one to receive the home in the settlement, does it make sense? To answer this, take into consideration home size, utilities, payments, family needs, etc. You also need to realize that you will now be entirely responsible for the house payment, upkeep and other related bills. Your income will most likely be decreasing, so it is imperative that you be aware of what your expenses will be.

Will I owe my spouse anything if I keep the house?

Does your spouse have marital interest in the home? If so, the equity in the home needs to be determined by an appraiser. The appraised value - less the costs of selling (commissions and seller closing costs) equals equity to be split between the parties. This is the amount you will be obligated to give to your ex-spouse.

With the divorce, your spouse may put a marital lien on the property, or there may be a court ordered mandate for distribution of the equity. This means that you have a specified amount of time to obtain the funds needed to give your ex-spouse their portion of the equity. This can be done by cashing out the equity in the home with a new mortgage or selling the home.

If you choose to stay in the home, you have two financing options to pay your ex-spouse. You can refinance your home to get cash out, or you can obtain a new home equity loan. This is where you will want the advice of a trusted mortgage professional.

What if I am the one leaving the home?

It is important to know that even though the divorce decree awarded the home to your spouse, you are still obligated for this debt in the eyes of the mortgage company if your name is one the mortgage!

Many people assume that by filing a quit claim deed removing their name from the deed, they are no longer responsible for the mortgage. A quit claim eliminates your name from the title of the property, not the mortgage. The benefit of a quit claim deed is that if the one on title passes away, the property will go to their heirs rather than the ex-spouse.

What can I do if my name is on the mortgage?

Unfortunately, because you are obligated for the mortgage until it is paid in full, it is imperative that the person responsible for the payment remains current. One possibility you have is to do a name delete assumption. If this is done as a non-qualifying assumption, the spouse not receiving the property can have their name removed from statements, but the financial obligation remains the same.

Will a divorce affect my ability to qualify for a home loan in the future?

Am I still obligated because I am on the other loan? Once you have your final divorce decree, we will look at your income and credit to qualify you on your own. Again, in most situations, child support and alimony must have been received for three months and have at least a three year likelihood of continuance for this income to be used for qualifying. If the divorce decree states that you are not obligated for the mortgage, and the mortgage on the home awarded to your ex-spouse has not been delinquent during the last 12 months, you may be able to qualify without this obligation.

If you want to purchase a home prior to the divorce becoming final, you may be allowed to do this, but be aware that your spouse will have a marital interest if you reside in a community property state . Be very careful with this situation! You will also have to qualify with the full debt from the current home because there is not a final divorce decree.

How do I find a reputable mortgage lender?

Taking the time to talk with a mortgage lender before your divorce or before you decide to start looking at a new home can help eliminate many of the concerns and problems that surface in these situations. Choosing to work with a Trusted Advisor as a mortgage lender is crucial to your financial well-being, especially during this difficult time. There are a variety of mortgage lenders available that you can search for in the phone book or online. Ideally you want a lender that is experienced in dealing with homeowners who are going through a divorce.

Antonio Johnson

©First Horizon - Equal Housing Lender. Antonio Johnson is a mortgage professional with 17 years of industry experience. He specializes in educating clients about the home loan process and helping them find a customized home financing solution that meets their needs. 

(This article may not be reproduced without written permission of First Horizon).

The following articles offer more information about the marital house, divorce and mortgage options, quitclaim deeds, and frequently asked questions.