When couples decide to separate, among the many considerations is the expense of getting a divorce. If you and your spouse basically agree on just about everything, you may wonder if you can save time and money with a do-it-yourself divorce. The best way to answer the question is to take a closer look at what divorce entails, starting with what to do with the family home in a divorce.
Wisconsin Property Division – The Family Home
Wisconsin is a community property state and all marital property is divided equally between the couple. Sounds simple enough, but dividing marital property is often complex. If there is a family home, for example, you will have to decide whether you will put it up for sale and split the proceeds or maybe one spouse wishes to keep the home and refinance under their own name. Some couples may even decide that one spouse will continue to live in the home, perhaps until the children are raised, keeping both of their names on the home loan with a loose plan to sell it down the road.
Selling the House and Splitting the Proceeds in a Divorce
Probably the most straight forward approach is the first option – putting the house up for sale and splitting the proceeds. The process of selling the home will require that you and your spouse come to some kind of agreement to share expenses in order to get the house ready for market – anything from a fresh coat of paint or professional landscaping to staging your home to attract buyers. You and your spouse will then be tasked with finding and agreeing upon a real estate agent, setting a price, and deciding how you will share fees associated with selling the home which are not insignificant. While the house is on the market with no guarantees it will sale quickly, you and your spouse will have to decide who will pay for continued maintenance, home insurance, and taxes, expenses that both of you are both responsible for until the house is sold. Getting an agreement in writing is key, documenting who will pay for what and how the process will be handled is something an experienced divorce lawyer will insist upon.
Refinancing the Family Home Under One Spouse’s Name
Of course, one spouse may wish to keep the home and refinance. In this case, there is the hurdle of qualifying for a home loan based on one income instead of two and, again, you will have to agree on how to share expenses leading up to the sale of the home and who will pay for fees. Because many family homes have a number of possessions such as furniture, heirlooms, tools and other marital property, you and your spouse will have to agree on who gets what, which can result in a lopsided division if not carefully thought out. An experienced lawyer can advise you on the best way to tackle the marital division of property to ensure you get a fair shake.
Staying On in the Family Home for the Sake of the Kids After Divorce
If the person who wishes to keep the family home is unable to refinance, you and your spouse may reach an arrangement where one of you stays and the other moves on – especially when kids involved – continuing as joint borrowers on the loan. This is most problematic approach for many reasons. First you will have to decide who is “informally” responsible for paying the monthly mortgage and hope that the other party follows through to protect your credit. If you are both on the loan – both remain responsible for payments in the lender’s eyes regardless of your arrangement. Of course there are payments for home insurance, taxes and regular maintenance, which one or both will have to continue to pay. Because both names remain on the loan, the spouse who moves will most likely have difficulty qualifying for financing to buy their own home of even a car. Capital gains taxes are also a consideration when delaying the sale of your home – tax exemptions favor the married – and of course the housing marketplace that runs hot and cold. All said, if remaining on the mortgage seems like the only feasible solution under the circumstances, consulting an experienced attorney can help you put some parameters in writing so if conditions are not met or your situation changes where you want to cut the ties that bind, you can move to sell the house and divide the proceeds.
Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney
Because divorce can be very complicated both legally and financially – a DIY (do- it-yourself divorce is probably only feasible for couples who do not have assets such as a house, do not have children, and enjoy comparable incomes. Only under these limited circumstances would a do-it-yourself divorce be a viable option, but even then, it is advisable to have an attorney look over your documents before moving forward. If you do have assets or debt, have been married for more than a few years, are a stay at home mom or dad, or have children, it is important to work with an experienced divorce attorney discuss what strategy to pursue in your divorce. Contact the Wisconsin family law attorneys at Probst Law Offices for a free consultation at 414-210-3135.