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What Happens To the House in a Divorce?


For many married couples, the home they shared is the most valuable possession they owned. Purchasing a home is a huge step, one you undoubtedly made when divorce was the last thing on your mind. Unfortunately, when it comes to divorce, dividing your assets and properties is one of the more complex aspects of the separation. There are several different ways couples can handle their marital home during and after their divorce, whether that means selling it, owning it together, or having one spouse buy out the other.

If you are concerned about what will happen to your house in a California divorce, make sure you know the facts. Find out what your options are and which choice might work best for your situation.

About Community Property Laws in California

In the state of California, all property accumulated during the marriage is referred to as community property. Community property is owned in equal parts by both spouses and during a divorce, all community property is subject to division. Usually, with a house, a married couple will have purchased the home together, with shared funds, putting both of their names on the title. However, if the title was in the name of only one spouse, that indicates that the house is the property of that spouse alone, which could make the house separate property.

Separate property is individual property owned by one spouse and not the couple as a married unit. Examples of separate property include inheritances, heirlooms, or certain properties and debts from before the marriage. So, if one spouse owned the house independently before the marriage took place, the house will likely be considered the separate property of that individual, and will therefore not be subject to division.

It’s important to remember that each case is different, so if you are unsure whether or not your home is community property, contact our divorce attorneys.

Selling Your House

One of the most popular options for divorcing couples is to sell their house during or after their split. If your house is community property, it could be significantly easier to deal with dividing your assets if you sell the house and split the profits. However, if one of you wishes to remain in the home and you can’t agree on selling it, this could be problematic.

Buy Out

If one spouse wishes to keep the home you shared, the other spouse could buy them out. One spouse would then take full ownership of the home after receiving fair compensation from the other, and the house would be entirely theirs. The buying spouse would need to refinance the home to remove the other spouse from the mortgage once the buyout has taken place. Sometimes if a couple has young children, keeping the family home becomes a very important part of making the transition easier for their kids. While this can be a good way to keep your kids comfortable, the added expense of maintaining a home on a single income can be extremely difficult. Consider the property taxes, maintenance expenses, mortgage, and other costs before committing to this option.

Deferred Sale

In fact, if retaining the home for your children’s sake is a priority, you might consider a deferred sale. Through this option, the sale of the home will be delayed until the children are older, but the parent who lives there with the children will be granted exclusive use of the home by the court. As long as the children live there, however, both spouses will still own the home.

If you are going through a divorce and you aren’t sure what you should do with your home, our firm can help you. Contact Chung & Ignacio, LLP to discuss your situation with our Rancho Cucamonga divorce attorneys.