Who Gets The House In An Alabama Divorce?
Divorces can feel all-consuming, as if there is no aspect of your life that is left unaffected or unchanged. Many people have sentimental attachments to their homes, and want to make sure they don’t lose their home as a result of the divorce. People have many reasons for wanting to keep their home, even beyond it feeling like a safe place to anchor during a tumultuous time. People are often still raising shared children in their marital home, and want to keep things as consistent and stable as possible for their children while going through a life-altering adjustment. Others may be caring for animals on the property or have an on-site business that they want to make sure is protected. Regardless of your motivations, it’s the most normal thing in the world to want to hold on to the home you created. So how does the court determine who gets to keep the house?
Determining the Value of the Home
The first step in this process, regardless of what you will ultimately choose to do with your marital home, is to determine the value. The easiest way to do this is usually by conducting a market value assessment. The only potentially tricky part at this stage, is that you and your spouse must both agree on the valuation. If you cannot come to an agreement on the value of the home, you can jointly appoint an expert appraiser, or ask the court to appoint one for you.
It’s important to determine the value of your home, because if it ends up being sold, the profits will be split in half between you and your spouse. If one spouse keeps the home, they may be required to pay their spouse for their share in the home’s equity.
Make Sure Home Ownership is Realistic
Far too often, people get so attached to the idea of keeping their home, they aren’t able to really assess objectively what it would take financially to keep it. Even if you have been living in the same home for twenty years, you may be shocked to learn how difficult it is to afford the property taxes, mortgage payments, and maintenance costs, as a single person living on a single salary. Have a really honest look at the financials and consult with a financial expert if necessary before deciding what you want to do.
How Does the Court Determine Who Gets the House?
Alabama courts always prefer that the spouses decide amongst themselves who gets the house and all marital assets. Courts will only step in and make a decision if the couple is not able to arrive at one themselves or with the help of their lawyers. For this reason, it is always beneficial to arrive at a mutual agreement with your spouse prior to going to court if possible. You will both have the most control over the outcome at this stage. After that, it’s largely up to the judge’s discretion.
In determining which spouse gets the house, the court may consider a number of factors, including whether the home was initially purchased as a shared home, or was purchased independently by one of the spouses, the financial status of each spouse and their ability to pay for the house’s expenses and upkeep, which spouse has primary custody of the children, the value of the home, misconduct by either spouse in the marriage which precipitated the divorce, and the mental and physical health of both spouses. In Alabama, the factor that is often determinative is which spouse is raising the children. Courts consider the best interest of the child, and the fact that awarding the house to the parent who has custody of them, allows them to stay in the same home environment and school district. However, that is not a hard-and-fast rule, and there are always exceptions.
Many times, the Court will opt for the approach to “sell the home and divide profits” on a marital residence if there is not an overwhelming reason for one party or the other to have the home. It’s a simple approach from their perspective when there is a disagreement on the value of the home OR who should receive the home. This is another reason why attempting to work this out with your spouse is a better approach when you have a strong opinion on the outcome of this particular issue.
Talk to an Alabama Divorce Lawyer
If you are considering a divorce, talk to the experienced Birmingham divorce attorneys at Peeples Law. We are prepared to zealously advocate on your behalf and ensure that you get the divorce settlement that you deserve and the best possible outcome for your family. Call today to schedule a consultation.