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To keep or not keep the house in divorce

My path to divorce law was paved with real estate issues. Improper deeds, failure to pay a mortgage, mistaken beliefs about assuming a mortgage. Unfortunately, this is when a divorcee first realizes that they should not have kept the marital home.

Part of my practice focuses on real estate law. I have seen the worst case scenarios. A consistent theme in these cases is that the divorcing parties did not get good advise on financial or real estate matters. A result, they lost their homes.

At SDM Law Group we take a different approach to divorce process. We are focused on our clients’ needs during and after the divorce. The underlying goal in each of our divorce cases is to obtain a fresh start for all of our clients. Where and how you live is very much a part of that fresh start.

Assuming the marital home is a marital asset, it needs to be divided. In Rhode Island, marital assets are divided under a theory of equitable distribution. For our purposes, lets assume that means a 50/50 split.
You have a few options with the house. First option is to sell it and split the equity, if any. Second, buy the soon to be ex-spouse’s equity position. In this, you simply obtain an appraisal of the house, determine the equity and pay your ex-spouse. Simple enough right? Maybe not.

As attorneys, part of our job is to understand our clients’ emotional state and then try to remove that emotion in decision making. Many clients wish to keep the house because of emotional ties. While justified, the decision was made on emotion rather than fact. Our role is to ensure the client makes an educated decision. Can the client not only make the mortgage payments, but also deal with the cost of upkeep, on one income?

In each case we recommend that our clients meet with other professionals to gather as much information as possible. A financial planner first, and then meet with a mortgage lender. These professionals work with our clients and making sure that keeping the house is the best idea, financially. Often, after discussion, we end up bringing in a real estate agent to sell the house and get the client into a new home. The ultimate decision rests with the client. In our experience, a more educated client, is a happier client.

The moral of the story is to make informed decisions. We spend the time with our clients to discuss these issues, not only from a legal standpoint, but on a holistic level. It is not “what you get in the divorce” that is important, but how you are positioned going forward.

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  • Providence Office
    145 Waterman Street
    Providence, Rhode Island 02906
    Phone: 401-455-0002
  • West Hartford Office
    71 Raymond Road
    West Hartford, Connecticut 06107
    Phone: 860-590-7578
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