The marital home is typically the biggest asset owned by a married couple, which makes dividing it one of the toughest tasks in any divorce. While New Jersey law calls for an equitable distribution of all marital properties, there is no specific method for how this division should take place. Since the house cannot literally be split in half, many couples elect to sell the house and split the proceeds equally. This may seem like a sensible plan; you'll likely have a lot of expenses to cover as a result of your divorce, so having a lump sum of cash at your disposal would certainly be helpful. In addition, letting go of something that is deeply symbolic of your marriage and spouse is an important step towards moving on with your life.
Selling, however, is not the only option for dividing the marital home. If you are able to cover the mortgage and other related costs on your own, you may want to consider keeping the house. In that case, you will need to buy out your spouse's equity, or interest in the house. Since New Jersey is not a community property state, marital properties are not automatically divided 50/50, so you will need to work with a divorce attorney to figure out a fair buyout amount. The amount depends on numerous factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse's contributions to the house, and whether or not either spouse will be receiving alimony. The upside to this method is that you will be in complete possession of a very valuable asset, but it all depends on whether you can refinance the mortgage on your own. Even if you do qualify for a loan, you may struggle to keep up with the payments if you have to pay for healthcare, car insurance, and other expenses that were covered under your spouse.
Your final option is to continue co-owning the house, which is not uncommon among couples with
children. Divorce is hard enough on the kids, so having them stay at the same house they grew up in may be in their best interest. In most cases, the non-custodial parents finds another place to live, with the agreement that the house will be sold at a later time. This arrangement, however, only works when both spouses are able to keep up with their payments. If the responsibility of paying the mortgage falls on one spouse, he or she could end up with bad credit, not to mention losing the house to foreclosure. In addition, there's no guarantee that you and your spouse will be able to work cooperatively in the future, even if you get along now.
Before making any decisions about your home, or any other marital properties, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Your initial consultation is free, so you have nothing to lose by finding out about your rights and options.