Perhaps one of the more difficult elements of a divorce, for parting couples, is parting with their home. Real estate and legal experts say a divorcing couple should set aside their acrimony and get on the same page. Here some options for parting couples and their homes, during a divorce:

1. Sell the house:

Selling a home can be the easiest and fastest way to handle what is likely a couple’s biggest financial asset. Before they begin the process, experts say, the couple should plan, with their lawyers, how the sale will proceed. As for when to sell, lawyers say couples need to take tax advantages into account such as the capital gains exemption. They advise clients in some situations, for example, to sell the house before the divorce is final. It can be awkward for agents and buyers to do business with both spouses in the throes of a divorce and therefore the couple should decide in advance who’s going to do what and who will pay for what.

2. One spouse gets the house:

A longer-term arrangement is for one spouse to stay in the home with the children for an agreed-upon period of time, and then sell the house. In this scenario, he or she would need to work out details such as who pays the mortgage while the one spouse lives there and how the profits would be split once the house sells. That can carry a financial risk because nobody knows what the housing market will be when the house sells. Sometimes that can mean selling in a less favorable market.

Another option is for one spouse to buy the other out of the house. Sometimes one spouse will have more of a claim to the home, especially if he or she owned it before the marriage. However, one should keep in mind that if both people in the couple are on the title of the home, the person who is keeping the house needs to qualify for the entire loan on their own.

3. Sharing the house:

More and more couples are rejecting the divorce of their parents’ generation and getting creative, especially when kids are involved. While the divorce rate is steadily dropping, the ways in which people remake their living arrangements after splitting is growing, according to divorce lawyers and real estate agents. Sometimes, that means delaying selling the home for several years so one spouse can live there.

Other times that can even mean the couple shares the house. It’s called nesting, and some people with kids are trying it out in an effort to cause less emotional disruption for the children, and less financial disruption for themselves. Some couples can’t sell because they are upside-down on their mortgage. Nesting can take any form the couple wants. A guest bedroom can be converted for one spouse to sleep in. Or spouses can trade off weeks living in the house. On their “off week,” they can rent an apartment or live with friends or relatives.

Generally, families have a timeline to end this arrangement, because a couple that’s splitting up obviously wouldn’t want to live together indefinitely. Experts say the best way to make that work is to have firm ground rules that everyone agrees on. That includes bigger-picture things such as when the house should go on the market, as well as smaller things such as keeping the house stocked with milk and toilet paper. Other issues can be trickier but still important to work out, like whether a new girlfriend or boyfriend is allowed in the home. This option only works if the couple still gets along quite well.


This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any family matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at