Selling Your Marital Home

In 2006, a New York man blew up his marital home rather than rescind ownership to his ex-spouse. His wife, Cordula Bartha, won the home in a divorce settlement. But when it came time for Dr. Nicholas Bartha to leave, he orchestrated an explosion that reduced the property to rubble.

Although the Bartha divorce is an extreme, the case demonstrates the deep emotions and high value often placed on the marital home. These factors can make the division of real estate one of the most difficult aspects of a divorce. Add to these issues the fact that you can’t simply cut the place in two and it is easy to understand why the marital home is a common point of contention.

Typically, you can deal with the family home in one of the following three ways:

  • You keep the home in exchange for other property or a cash buyout
  • Your spouse buys you out of your share of the home’s equity
  • You sell the home and split the equity

Each possible scenario comes with its own set of challenges. For instance, the divorce settlement may clearly grant you ownership of the home. However, a bank must agree to finance you. Conversely, just because the divorce decree says you are no longer liable for the mortgage, taxes and debt associated with the property does not necessarily make it so. The bank, the IRS and lienholders are third parties that are not held to the terms of your contract with your spouse.

Under the best of circumstances, selling your home can create tensions if you don’t see eye to eye. You can avoid unnecessary disputes by agreeing to the terms of the sale as part of your divorce settlement. Important issues to consider include the following:

  • Fairly dividing payment of mortgages, taxes, insurance and maintenance
  • Deciding on an agent, an asking price and other terms of sale
  • Determining whether you want to rent the home to a third party or if one spouse should remain until the home’s sale
  • Agreeing on the terms of equity division

A real estate broker may be useful in offering an unbiased third party perspective to issues regarding the sale.

If you are going through a divorce in Tampa Bay or elsewhere in Florida, consult a lawyer who can advise you on property division and other important issues.

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