There is a popular saying that home is where the heart is. From a financial standpoint, your home is probably where much of your money lines up. Between the costs of paying your mortgage and updating or upgrading the house, a lot of the income from your marriage likely went directly into your marital home. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise then, that many couples fight over the home as they move through the divorce process.
Understanding how Washington law handles assets and looking at your situation can help you determine the most likely outcomes in your divorce. However, barring an ironclad prenuptial agreement, there is no concrete way to predict how the courts will rule.
Your home is probably your single biggest asset
Although many people no longer put down 20 percent of their home price at the time of purchase, equity in your home is still a substantial asset. Each month, a portion of your payment goes toward the principal, not just the interest on your mortgage. In other words, several hundred dollars of each mortgage payment become your established value in the home.
Over the course of several years or decades, that amount increases dramatically. Later on in your mortgage, more of your payment goes toward principal and interest.
Regardless of how long you have been married or how much your home is worth, the equity you have built up in your house is probably the biggest asset you own. Considering that, it is reasonable that both you and your spouse have a strong interest in protecting your rights to that asset.
Washington courts focus on equitable and fair asset division outcomes and kids
Each state has its own unique approach to handling marriage and divorce. In Washington, the guiding principle in the asset division process is a fair and equitable split. In other words, the judge in your case should look at the circumstances of your marriage, excluding marital misconduct, to determine how to fairly split up your assets.
In many divorces, the custody of minor children can impact how the courts rule about the house. The spouse who has primary custody of the children may have a better claim to the marital home. After all, staying there with your children can help minimize the chaos and upheaval that a divorce causes for kids.
Sometimes one person keeps the home, other times you must sell it
If you don’t have kids or your children are grown, the courts will look at which one of you is capable of maintaining a mortgage on your own and other factors, including spousal support. In some cases, the courts may award the home to one spouse. When that happens, the spouse retaining the home usually needs to refinance the property and provide the other spouse with a fair portion of the equity in the home.
Other times, the courts may allocate other significant assets, such as a retirement account, to the spouse not retaining the home. It is also possible in some circumstances for the courts to order that you sell the home. Understanding these common outcomes and advocating for your ideal outcome in the disposition of your home is a smart approach to take in divorce.