Staying in the house doesn’t mean you get to keep it in the divorce

On Behalf of | Feb 17, 2021 | Divorce |

Your friends and co-workers will probably try to give you some questionable advice when they find out about your divorce. They may mean well, but they will just pass along what they have heard from others.

One piece of advice that a shocking number of people share is that moving out of your marital home is the biggest mistake you can make. They will wax poetic about how leaving might constitute abandonment and will let your spouse keep the house in the divorce.

The truth is far more nuanced than their winner-take-all interpretation. Leaving the house when you decide to file for divorce could mean that your spouse has temporary possession of the property. That doesn’t necessarily mean they get to keep the house outright in the divorce.

What do the New Jersey courts do with the marital home?

Provided that your house is marital property and not the separate or inherited property of one spouse, the courts will likely split its value in your divorce. While they may not order the sale of the house, they will expect you and your spouse to share the value accrued in their property to achieve equitable property division.

Letting one spouse keep the house is an option. If there’s a mortgage on the house, that spouse will likely need to refinance to give their ex a share of the equity. However, the courts could give the spouse not in the house other valuable assets, like a retirement account. In some cases, the courts may order a couple to sell the house and split the proceeds.

They could also approve an arrangement where you choose to share ownership after divorce. The two of you would remain co-owners of the house in a “birdnesting” arrangement where the children stay in the home and you and your spouse would take turns living there.

Your family circumstances and requests will influence how the courts rule when splitting your valuable and complex property in your divorce. Your family law attorney can help you.