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Property division: Can I keep my house?

Let's imagine for a moment that you've been married for 15 years. Before getting married you had the good fortune to pay off the mortgage on your home. Your husband moved in with you after getting married and the two of you enjoyed the last decade and a half in the same home.

However, your marriage is now irrevocably coming to an end, and you're terrified about what's going to happen to your pride and joy: your home. Can your husband take half the value of your property? What's going to happen to your residence during the asset division process?

How will the court treat your home during asset division?

Washington family law courts will treat the family residence differently depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding the marriage and the family. For example, when two people have children together, the court may decide that the spouse with primary physical custody shall keep living in the home with the children.

That said, if you bought the home before your marriage, with your own money -- and you and your spouse don't have children -- then you'll probably have the legal right to ask your soon-to-be ex to leave the property.

What if we bought the home together with shared money?

In cases where two spouses bought a home, or continued paying off the mortgage on the home during the marriage, then some or all of the home's value will be a part of the marital estate. Through the use of professional property estimators -- and by estimating how much money was put into the residence after the marriage -- courts will attempt to divide the value of the home between the spouses.

In these cases, the spouses will need to come to an agreement about who will stay in the home and assume ownership if they don't plan to sell the property. The spouse who stays in the home may need to take out a mortgage to compensate the other spouse for his or her share of the property. In these cases, it may be easier to liquidate the property and divide the proceeds according to each spouse's share. If spouses cannot agree upon who shall stay in the home -- and if no children are involved -- courts may order the liquidation of the property.

Ask a family law attorney what will happen to your home

This article can only provide a general idea about who will have the right to keep your family home in your divorce. By speaking with a Washington family law attorney, you can gain a better view of how a court will likely treat your home during the asset division process in your divorce.

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731 West Main Street
Auburn, WA 98001

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