Hartley Law Office, LLC

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It may be better to walk away from the house

A previous post on this blog talked about some common errors in thinking that may make a Dayton, Ohio, resident's divorce or separation take a turn for the worse.

To add to that list, another common mistake is to not think through the short-term and long-term financial consequences of one's decisions and how they may affect would otherwise seems like a fair bottom line in a property settlement or, for that matter, a court-ordered division of property.

By way of example, while it is true that one's marital home can be a valuable asset since it often compromises a sizeable portion of a family's net worth, it is not always a good idea for a person to try to hang on to it.

For instance, as most Ohioans know, the housing market fluctuates. This means that even a fiscally responsible couple who has been keeping up on the mortgage payments can in a buyer's market find themselves upside down on their home, meaning they owe more on the home than what they could sell the property for.

While someone who has years left before retirement can usually ride out a downturn, someone who is divorcing in later life may find that she has hung on to a house that will force her to work longer than she wanted since it is, effectively, worthless.

Moreover, a person who does elect to keep a house will likely be responsible not only for the mortgage but also for maintenance, insurance and taxes. If they cannot keep up on these expenses, they may wind up in serious financial trouble that could mean having to give up the home they fought hard to keep in a divorce.

Really, whether to negotiate to keep one's marital residence is a strategic question that depends heavily on one's goals and circumstances. It should thus be discussed with one's family law attorney.

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