Divorce and Keeping the Marital Home

When you go through a divorce, it tends to hit you all at once — your life is going to change. And the thing is, human beings are hard wired to conserve energy, which means that they try to avoid change at all costs. Thus, instead of forging ahead, you may find yourself stalling on the steps you know you need to take to complete the divorce.

One change that divorcing spouses find most difficult to cope with is letting go of the marital home. This is where your children grew up. Your memories are here. It’s convenient to your children’s school and your place of work. And then there are the countless hours of sweat equity you put into the place on improvements you’re never going to use.

The reality is, though, keeping the house may not be in your best interest even if your spouse agrees to move out and transfer the deed into your name. Here are the main reasons why selling is the better option.

You Can’t Afford to Make the Payments.

After a divorce, your income is likely to drop. In fact, women’s income declines by 41 percent on average following a divorce, roughly double the financial squeeze that men experience. The mortgage payment that was doable with two incomes suddenly consumes nearly half of your take home pay, and you find it hard to escape the paycheck-by-paycheck trap.

This scenario leaves a divorced spouse particularly vulnerable to defaulting on the mortgage in the event of a health crisis, accident, or job loss. If you don’t have emergency savings — and most Americans are unable to come up with $2,000 for an emergency — you may find yourself in trouble sooner than later.

This is particularly true of women who rely on child support to help make ends meet. If their ex-husband loses his job, the payments could come to a halt, putting her in financial jeopardy.

You Might Have to Tap into Your Retirement to Finance Emergencies.

Owning a house is expensive. In some localities, property tax alone imposes a financial burden, and that burden only increases year after year. Hazard insurance and routine maintenance also consume their share.

For people with little discretionary income, however, the worst case scenario is an unanticipated big-ticket expense, like needing to replace the sewage line or HVAC system. Sometimes the only way to finance an item like that is to tap into retirement funds. If you’re already living paycheck to paycheck, you have no way to replenish those resources. The result is that you may have significantly less money in retirement.

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You're Missing out on the Opportunity to Start a New Life

The same reason you may be reluctant to sell the marital home — because it holds a lot of fond memories — may be the best reason of all to sell up. Because when you really think about it, the last years in the home weren’t happy ones. There was either tension and strife leading up the time of the divorce, or there was a feeling of painful betrayal if one spouse decided to call it quits.

 The marital home can become a repository for those unpleasant and traumatic feelings as well. As safe as it may feel to stay put, you might be selling yourself short by not moving on and starting a new life. Selling the marital home can be a symbolic act of freedom, severing the ties of your old self and forging ahead into a new future.

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