April 18, 2008

I’m going to get divorced, should I sell my home first?

As an Oregon divorce lawyer a large part of my job is figuring out how best to deal with divorcing parties’ family home and other real property. In most cases, the family home is a husband and wife’s largest asset. What to do with that home can be the most important part of dividing their assets.

It is not unusual for a husband and wife to sell the family home and divide the proceeds equally between them. Most people think that this will make their divorce case easier. Sometimes this is true, but more often than not, the premature sale of the home will lead to a more difficult asset distribution.

Prior to filing for divorce a home may be titled in just one parties’ name. This gives them control over the asset. After a divorce case has been filed, the asset cannot be sold absent agreement of the non-titled party.

Since the home is usually the largest asset, not having it to divide can make coming up with a creative asset division much more difficult. One party may have preferred to keep the house and buy the other party out rather than selling it. The same applies to rental properties or other homes. If the home is sold, there may be no way to immediately “equalize” the property distribution.

It is common for a divorce judgment to require that the parties list the home for sale and then dictates how the net proceeds will be divided. In these situations it is crucial for the parties to use a quality real estate agent. This is especially true in the current market.

My advice to people who are considering divorce is to consult with a family law lawyer to discuss the best way to address issues regarding the family home. Self education is power, and getting advice from other real estate professionals prior to making the decision to sell their home prior to starting the divorce process is a good idea.

One good source of Portland real estate information is fellow blogger Charles Turner (of Turner Realtors) blog, located at www.portlandrealestateblog.com.