When does one spouse get to keep the family home in a divorce?

Few assets stress people considering a divorce like a primary home can. You probably spend a significant amount of your household income every month on your mortgage and other housing costs. Your home is likely the most valuable piece of property you own, and you probably don’t want to lose out on that value just because you want a divorce.

The good news is that Washington is a community property state, which means that both spouses will typically have a right to some of the value in their shared marital home during a divorce. Still, there are situations where one spouse can keep the house. When is that an option?

Some spouses can keep the marital home because it remains separate property

If you or your spouse own the house outright prior to marriage and did not require the other spouse to contribute toward the financial or physical demands for maintenance and upkeep of the property, it is likely that the original owner can retain the home and its equity.

However, if both spouses contributed financially to the home, even if one person owned it prior to marriage, the courts may still choose to divide at least a portion of its value between spouses.

Some spouses keep the home but have to pay off their ex

When one person gets the home, usually that means that they keep the property but not necessarily all of the equity accrued in it so far.

If the courts award a home that was community property to one spouse, the other will likely receive other substantial assets to offset the value of the home and balance the property settlement. Alternately, the courts may also require that the spouse staying in the marital home refinance the property to remove their ex from the deed and to withdraw some of the equity to pay their spouse and makes the property division arrangements fairer.

People often get so caught up in the idea of winning the house that they don’t stop to ask themselves whether they really want to live in their marital home after they leave their spouse. Discussing your priorities for the future with your lawyer can help you develop a divorce strategy that reflects what will be best for you in the long run.