In many divorces, the question of who gets to keep the family home or whether it must be sold is a cause of great conflict. Real estate is one of the most significant assets in most marriages, and dividing the claim can be complex. This raises the question, “Can I keep my house during a divorce in Maryland?”
In divorces involving couples with young children, one or both parents may wish for the children to continue living in their family home so they have a sense of stability. The emotional attachment that the adults involved have for their homes can make the proceedings even more complicated.
Here is a look at what can happen to the family home in a Maryland divorce.
Maryland Property Division
Maryland is an equitable distribution state, meaning that property is divided in a way that the court considers equitable. It is important to note that it does not necessarily result in a 50-50 split.
In Maryland, several factors are used to determine how the property will be awarded to divorcing parties. These include the economic circumstances of each spouse, the duration of the marriage, the spouses’ ages, and the mental and physical conditions of the spouses.
It is important to understand that only marital property is divided in this way. Property that is considered marital is that which was acquired by the husband and wife during their marriage. Anything that was owned before the marriage is actually considered separate property and is not subject to this distribution. The same is true of gifts and inheritances.
Therefore, depending on how the home was acquired, it may not be subject to equitable distribution. However, Maryland makes a special exception for real estate in cases where one spouse owned the home before the marriage and added their spouse to the title after getting married. In this case, the home would be considered a marital asset.
Keeping the House if Children Are Involved
There may be cases where a Maryland court chooses to give one spouse the exclusive right to reside in the family home for as long as three years following the divorce. One side might also be awarded exclusive use of certain personal property, such as furniture or vehicles.
In these cases, the home must have been the main residence of the couple during their marriage, leased or owned by one of the spouses, and used by at least one spouse and one child as their residence after the divorce. Although the spouse who lives in the family home in this case does not need to have full custody of all of the children, they must be designated the custodial parent of at least one child.
When determining whether one parent should be granted the right to use a family home, the court considers factors such as the potential for the arrangement to cause the other spouse financial hardship, the child’s best interest, and the use of the home by either party for business purposes.
In many cases, an exclusive use and possession order will end before the standard three years if the youngest child living in the home turns 18 or the spouse living there gets remarried.
In addition, some couples might decide in mediation to give one party use and possession for a longer period than the typical three years. For example, some families use this approach to enable their children to continue attending school in their current district and avoid disrupting their lives.
At the end of the designated use and possession period, ownership reverts to the individual whose name is on the title, or the home will be sold.
However, it is important to ensure that the spouse who will be staying in the home under such an arrangement can afford it. Divorce often requires spouses to make serious financial adjustments as they begin living on one income rather than two. Therefore, careful assessment of one’s finances and their ability to pay mortgage and maintenance costs on their own is imperative.
Buying Out a Spouse or Transferring the Title
One of the spouses involved in a divorce can choose to keep the marital home and buy out their spouse by agreeing to refinance a jointly held mortgage to pay it off and remove the name of the other spouse. The party that receives the home might refinance it for an amount that enables them to give the other spouse their equitable share of the home.
Selling the Home
In cases where it is necessary to sell the marital home, it will be listed for sale, and the mortgage and any home equity loans that apply will be paid off once it is sold. Whatever money is left will be divided as part of the standard equitable division of marital property.