If you’re considering a divorce in Nashville, Lawyers People Love can help you get the house in the divorce
At Lawyers People Love, one of the most frequent questions our team gets is “How do I keep my house in a divorce?” In Nashville, there are a lot of reasons you might want to keep the home you’ve shared with your spouse and family.
However, there are a lot of factors that control which spouse gets the house — and that’s if either spouse keeps it, which is far from a certainty. For those considering a divorce in Nashville and want to keep the house, Lawyers People Love has prepared this brief overview of keeping the house in the divorce.
The good news is with preparation, foresight, and a little guidance, there is a very good chance you can keep your house in the divorce. Here is a look at what you need to know.
Determining who gets the house in a divorce in Nashville is complex
In Tennessee, the question of who gets any asset in a divorce is not straightforward. There are several considerations that the judge must weigh before making a decision:
- Was the home purchased jointly during the marriage or did one spouse own it when the couple married?
- Was the home inherited or is it attached to family property of one spouse?
- Can the spouse who wants the home afford the payments and upkeep?
- Why does the spouse want the home?
- Are there other considerations, such as children and schools, that weigh on the decision?
And these are just a few of the many questions that have to be answered before a judge awards a home to either spouse. Even still, no single question universally determines who gets the home. That’s because Tennessee is an “equitable distribution state,” which can complicate division of assets — even assets that were purchased before marriage.
Equitable distribution means both spouses must receive property, money, and valuables of equal value from their shared property during a divorce. You may think that means a joint estate valued at $750,000 means each spouse should leave the divorce with $375,000 worth of property and valuables. However, it’s not that straightforward, especially where a house is concerned.
For example, John and Sarah have shared a home in Green Hills for twenty years. John purchased the home two years before he married Sarah for $250,000. During their marriage, John and Sarah invested heavily in the property, adding a master suite, renovating the kitchen, and hardscaping the backyard. At the same time, the home’s value skyrocketed. Between their cash investment of $100,000 over 15 years and growing popularity of the neighborhood, the home is now valued at over $700,000. How much of that belongs to John and how much belongs to Sarah?
In this one example, the judge must weigh John’s prior ownership of the home, the accrued value of the house over the years, and the investments both spouses have made. Ultimately, the single biggest determining factor in who gets the house in a divorce in Nashville is “what is most fair?” And that’s ultimately up to the judge.
So if you’re going to pursue keeping the house, there are two things you’ll need to be prepared to demonstrate: good reason and affordability.
Why do you want the house?
At first, this may seem like a silly question. You might even say, “I want the house because I want it.” However, that may not be a good enough reason to convince the judge in a contested divorce. Here are five reasons individuals might make the case they should receive the home:
For twenty years, you’ve been the homemaker, poring over every decision about paint colors, light fixtures, even which pictures to hang on the wall. Along the way, you’ve made memories with the kids, friends and family, and neighbors. This home has been your life, and you want to maintain it. Believe it or not, sentimental value is a powerful motivator and, in some cases, sufficient grounds to get the house in the divorce.
Stability for minor children
One of the most important considerations the court will make in awarding a home to one spouse over the other centers on what is best for minor children. Children form strong bonds to their homes, and it can be a benefit to them during turbulent times to have the safety and familiarity of the family home. If you’re the parent who will receive primary custody, you can make the case that you should remain in the home after the divorce. The judge may also entertain considerations such as good school zones, the presence of friends, or proximity to parks and other child-centered activities while determining who gets the home in a Nashville divorce.
Affordability and investment
During discovery, both spouses will answer interrogatories outlining their income and assets. When the question of the house arises, the judge may require the spouse to demonstrate they can properly afford to maintain the home, including paying for utilities, making mortgage payments, and footing the costs of repairs. If you’re going to ask for the house, you’d better be sure you can afford to pay for it after your spouse’s income goes away.
Family runs deep in Middle Tennessee, and frequently spouses will build a home on “family land” that belongs to one spouse’s relatives. If your family gifted you a plot of land that has been in the family, the judge may determine that you are more entitled to receive the home than your spouse. Even if you and your spouse purchased the land from your family, you may still receive the home as part of the equitable distribution of assets, simply because keeping the family land intact can be a great value.
If you and your spouse are like most homeowners, you have a mortgage. When you ask for ownership of the house, you’ll have to be prepared to either pay off the mortgage or you’ll need to obtain a mortgage outright. While some mortgage lenders do allow for a single spouse to assume the mortgage during the divorce, these lenders will still require proof of ability to pay the mortgage after the divorce. If you lack the income to pay the note or you don’t have credit good enough to get a mortgage on your own, you may end up without the house.
These are just a few of the many reasons you might ask for your house. Before you do, though, it’s important that you ask yourself why you want it and if you can properly afford to maintain it. If you’re honest with yourself, you may decide the costs do not outweigh the benefits, and in that case there are options. You might decide to sell the home and split the proceeds, or your spouse may want to keep the house as part of their assets after the divorce is final.
The best path to keeping the house in a Nashville Divorce
After you’ve weighed the costs and made sure you can pay to maintain the home, if you decide you want to keep it after the divorce, the most certain way to do so is simple: negotiate for it. That means you and your attorney will work with your spouse and their attorney to reach terms that are fair to both parties.
Remember, Tennessee is an “equitable distribution” state. That means that you’ll have to provide half the home’s total equity to your spouse in other considerations. So if you and your spouse share $100,000 in equity, you’ll have to be prepared to come up with $50,000 worth of other property or cash to offset the loss of equity your spouse will suffer.
Schedule a free consultation today
If you are considering divorce, or if your spouse has sued you for divorce, you do not have to face this process alone. Lawyers People Love is ready to walk with you through the divorce process. To schedule a consultation, contact us today. Or, you can give us a call at 615-628-7052.