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The family home: what can happen to it in divorce

For most couples getting divorced, the family home is one of the most important matters to settle. If you own your home, you and your ex will most likely have to decide what to do with it. That is because if you bought it after getting married, the house is almost certainly marital property under New Jersey divorce law.

Like most states, New Jersey practices equitable distribution in divorce. Marital assets like your home must be divided “equitably,” or fairly, between the two of you. Obviously, unlike a bank account or 401(k), a house cannot be divided into two portions. So you must find an alternative. Here are four common solutions.

Trading the house for other assets

The equitable division system, which does not require you to split your marital assets 50-50, allows you to get creative. If you or your ex want to keep the house, the spouse who is giving up their share of its value can get compensation in other ways. For example, that spouse could get a larger share of the savings or a smaller percentage of the marital debt.

Taking the house instead of alimony

Similarly, the spouse seeking the house could agree to give up on spousal support or agree to a shorter period of support. This tradeoff might benefit the spouse giving up the home by reducing or eliminating their alimony obligations.

Co-owning the house after divorce

In some cases, divorcing couples decide to continue co-owning the home. One possible reason is that the spouse with sole or majority custody wants to keep the kids in the house but cannot afford the mortgage and maintenance costs on their own. The other parent may agree that raising the children in the same place they lived in before the divorce is best and continue to help pay for the house even though they don’t live there anymore.

Sell the house

If keeping the house is not realistic or a priority, the couple can sell it and split the proceeds. Then each spouse can use the money toward a new home that they can afford.

However you and your spouse deal with the house, it should be in a way that best fits your individual needs, especially if you have children together.