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Getting a Divorce – What Are You Going To Do With The Family Home?

You made the decision to divorce, now read how to navigate best the mountainous task of deciding what to do with the family home.

The impending divorce will be a very stressful event that involves all members of your family, including the family pets. If there is real estate involved, you both must make critical decisions, which includes the disposition of the family home.  One popular option is to sell the family home outright, and another favorite option is that your partner will buy out your share, or you will buy out your partner’s share.

The famous Irish writer Maeve Brennen is quoted as saying “Home is a place in the mind. When it is empty, it frets. It is fretful with memory, faces and places and times gone by. Beloved images rise up in disobedience and make a mirror for emptiness.”  Ask yourself, do you want to stay behind in the family home?

After you hire a mediator, you will be invited to complete the mediation paperwork, and a pre-divorce mediation meeting will be scheduled to discuss the disposition of the real estate.  During the actual pre-divorce mediation meeting, a competent mediator will first, examine the actual interests in the family home in separate meetings with each of you.
A good mediator will most likely re-frame the family home conversation.  Be prepared, the mediator will probably ask you “Why would living here be of value to you?  Will you be able to deal with the memories or do you want a fresh start?”  At this point, be honest with yourself and explore what your true hopes, needs, values, beliefs and expectations are in connection to the family home.

Yes, it will be a painful process, but don’t let hurt feelings and volatile emotions interfere what is best for your family at this critical time in the dissolution of your marriage.  In financial and emotional terms, the best decision will be to hire a mediator who can work with both of you to uncover what your actual interests are in the disposition of the family home.

Imagine, you can jointly save thousands of dollars on unnecessary attorney’s fees by using your mediator to facilitate the decision-making process in a neutral and impartial manner.  With the assistance of your mediator, you both can work together and make good logical decisions rather than bad emotional decisions.  The end goal will be that both of you will each receive your share of the proceeds and move on with as little damage to the psyche as possible.

So, You Decided to Sell the Home
You both must agree on when to put the property on the market, how to price it, how to prepare it for showing and how to handle offers and dividing the proceeds.  By using your mediator, the internal conflicts associated with your decision can be facilitated and resolved relatively quickly if you both can jointly agree on:
• Picking a real estate agent who will market and sell the home.  It is not recommended to try and sell the home by yourselves while attempting to dissolve your marriage.  We can assist you with hiring a competent Realtor.
• An agreement on the asking price of the home in conjunction with your real estate agent‘s input.
• The timeline and the checklist of tasks to prepare the home for showing.  There is often work that needs to be done such as minor repairs, cleaning and staging the home.   Or better yet, you both might even decide to move out and have the home professionally staged to achieve maximum dollar for the home.
• Your decision to accept an offer on the home. By being on the same page with the selling price, you will minimize the risk of offer expiring on the home due to not being in agreement on the sales price and terms.
• The division of the proceeds. After paying the obligations related to the house, your mediator can work with you in terms of the division of the proceeds.  Every case is unique and with the disposition of the family home, there will be tax ramifications. I would suggest that you consult an accountant or tax-wise counsel as well, who can advise you on the potential tax problems or opportunities with the options of the buyout or the sale of the family home.


Laurieann Ram-Kern

Laurieann Ram-Kerns is a mediator in Texas.  She is a member of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators, Texas Association of Mediators, and Mediators Beyond Borders.  She is also a graduate of the Master of Arts  Southern Methodist University Dispute Resolution Program, Plano, Texas. MORE >

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