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Choosing to sell or keep the family home in a divorce

Divorcing spouses in Illinois and around the country often find it difficult to decide how to deal with the marital home. The family residence is usually the most valuable marital asset, but it can be hard for spouses to put their emotional attachments aside and concentrate on financial considerations. The two basic options are selling the house and dividing the proceeds or one spouse remaining in the home. In either scenario, the first step is to determine how much the property is worth.

This is a job usually left to professional appraisers who arrive at a figure after inspecting the property and then checking recent sales in the area. Both spouses sometimes select an appraiser to ensure that the value is fair. In such cases, a third appraiser may be called in when the figures submitted vary greatly. Once an appraised value has been agreed upon, the spouses can determine how much home equity they have and how it should be divided.

The easiest way to accomplish this is to sell the property, but this may not be an attractive option when young children are involved or emotional bonds are strong. Spouses who wish to remain in the marital home may offer other assets such as investments, vehicles or artwork in exchange for home equity, but these assets can be even more difficult to appraise than real estate. The spouse who will remain in the house can also take out a loan to buy their former wife or husband out, but they may find this difficult if they do not have much cash to put down or will be living on a fixed income.

When the primary residence in a divorce case is not being sold, an experienced family law attorney may recommend paying off any joint mortgages. Banks do not pay attention to divorce settlements when loans fall into arrears, and they will generally pursue all of the people who signed the loan documents for payment whether they still live in the property or not.

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