To Keep or Not to Keep the House After Divorce
So many things have happened in the house you had together. You made it a home, filled it with meaningful things and built a family there. The sentimentality is both good and bad, stirring up the memories of the early days, happy moments and inside jokes but also little reminders of the not-so-happy times and moments you’d rather forget all together in one place. The time has come to cope with a dilemma you never intended to face: Should I keep the house after divorce or move out – and on?
To help you figure this out, let’s start by exploring a few questions.
Question 1: What does the house mean to you?
Is it your safe place? Does it make you feel at home and comforted, despite the changes? Or does it feel toxic? Does it serve as a constant reminder to your not-very-happy ending? If you’re going to stay, it should feel good to you, or you should do the things you need to do so it does feel good. We recommend throwing a divorce housewarming party for this very reason.
Question 2: How would you feel if you left it?
Can you bear the thought of living elsewhere and leaving it behind? What excites you about that possibility? What scares you? Envision yourself moving on for clues as to what your heart really wants.
Question 3: What will your life be like there?
If you keep your house after divorce, what will change? Would you enjoy remodeling or rearranging? Will you enjoy sleeping in the bed that was once you and your spouses’ alone? How will you help your kids adjust and make it a good place? If you’re going to stay, consider ways to shift the energy in your home, as well as the physical space, so it feels good for you and your family.
Question 4: Can you afford to keep the house?
Unfortunately, this question can make or break your decision. As important as it is to feel good in your home, you have to be able to afford it. How will you cover the mortgage? Utilities? Expenses? This is where sound financial advice is very helpful, either from an advisor or even a mortgage banker.
Question 5: What will it take to keep it?
Will you and your Ex battle in court for months over who gets to keep the house after divorce? Will it cost you more than your home value in attorney and court fees to win your home in your agreement? What is keeping this house worth to you? Where will you draw the line? It’s easy to get caught up in winning for winning’s sake, and humans are notoriously loathe to give up something they already have – but sometimes walking away is the best option.
Question 6: Can you take care of the house?
I realize I sound like a mother talking to her child about getting a puppy, but this is an honest question. Things break, regular maintenance is required, and bug infestations need to be prevented or deal with. Sure, you can hire someone to take care of these things, but that costs money, in addition to the mortgage and insurance. When deciding to keep the house after divorce, make sure to consider any repairs you know it’ll need soon (it may be worth paying an inspector to take a look), and budget money every month to put into a home repairs savings account.
If you keep the house after divorce, feel good about it.
Ultimately, that’s the best advice we can give: spend some time exploring these questions so that if you decide to stay in your home, you feel good there. Our sense of home is critical to our well-being, so make sure this is the one you want to be in.