For many people, one of the most difficult aspects of divorce is having to move out of their home and find a new place to live. Many people love their home, and in most cases, it’s their most valuable asset. If you are divorcing and you and your spouse cannot agree on who gets the home, a Connecticut court will make a determination based on the totality of your circumstances.
Who gets to live in the marital home during the pendency of the divorce?
It depends on your circumstances. If everybody’s getting along and both of you want to continue to live in the home while the divorce is pending, you can do so. In many situations, however, one of you will want to move out. You and your spouse will need to consider how the daily expenses will continue to be paid and whether the resources exist for two separate residences. If a second residence is not feasible due to cost, one party may look to stay with a family member or friend during the proceedings.
Often, if one spouse hopes to keep the home after the divorce, that individual will stay in the home during the proceedings and the other will move out. Divorcing couples with children typically want to keep their children’s lives as stable as possible and will therefore want them to remain in the home during the proceedings. In these situations, the primary caregiver may stay in the home with the children while the other spouse goes elsewhere. Some divorcing parents will choose to rent a small space that they can alternate living in during their non-parenting time, while the parent who has time with the children stays in the marital home.
In extremely hostile situations, the court may grant one spouse the right to exclusive use and possession of the home during the pendency of the divorce. But absent extreme circumstances, if you don’t want to live with the other party in the home, and they’re refusing to leave, you may have to be the party that moves out. Some people fear that if they leave the home, they will be seen as abandoning the family or the home. But when determining what is in the best interests of a child, the court may look favorably on a parent who voluntarily left the marital home while the divorce was pending in order to alleviate stress within the household. It’s advisable to discuss whether it’s best for you to leave the home under your particular circumstances with an experienced Connecticut family law attorney.
What information needs to be obtained to analyze final options for the home?
In Connecticut, all assets, including the home, are subject to division and distribution to either or both spouses in a manner that the court deems fair. This applies to assets that are titled jointly to the spouses, assets in either spouse’s name, and assets owned jointly by a spouse and someone else. You will be required to gather certain documents to provide a complete picture of the total assets available for distribution, including:
- Past 3 years of federal and state income tax returns, including personal returns and returns filed on behalf of any partnership or closely held corporation of which a party is a partner or shareholder
- Past 3 years of IRS forms W-2, K-1, and 1099
- Last pay stub from the previous year and all pay stubs, or other evidence of income, from the current year
- Past 24 months of statements for all accounts maintained with any financial institution, including banks, brokers and financial managers
- Most recent statement for every retirement account, including Keogh, IRA, profit-sharing, deferred compensation and pension plans
- Most recent statement for any life insurance policies you have on yourself or your spouse
- Health insurance policy summary detailing coverage, cost, spousal benefits and COBRA costs following dissolution
- Appraisals of assets you own, either by yourself, with your spouse or another party
If neither you nor your spouse wants to keep the home after the divorce, it can be sold, and the proceeds divided in a way that the court deems fair or as agreed-upon by you and your spouse. But if either of you wants to keep the home, a determination will have to be made as to whether you could afford to maintain it on your own. This will require an analysis of your income, including any support you would receive pursuant to the divorce, and the total costs of maintaining the home, including the mortgage, utilities, real estate taxes and other expenses. If neither of you could afford to keep the home on your own, this may necessitate a sale so that the proceeds could be used to establish two separate residences.
If either you or your spouse wants to keep the home, the home’s value will need to be established. You and your spouse could agree upon a value for the home, or rely on the tax assessment or online resources for a value, or rely upon a comparative market analysis or a real estate appraisal.
For example, if you and your spouse choose to appraise your home, there will be a cost involved compared to using online resources to establish the value. If you and your spouse both want appraisals done but cannot agree on one appraiser, you could each obtain your own appraisal. If the numbers are different, the court will have to determine how to treat each appraisal if a compromise is not reached between the parties. In more amicable situations or for cost reasons, you and your spouse could get one appraisal jointly.
How does the court determine who gets the home?
The court will look at a variety of factors and determine, on a case-by-case basis, who gets the home and how the other party will be compensated for his or her share. The decision will depend heavily on what each party is asking for and your financial circumstances. If you want to keep the home, can you afford it based on your income and any support you will receive after the divorce? If you have children, the court may try to keep the children in the home if possible for their general stability and to ensure they can remain within the same school district. But in cases where neither of you can afford the home on your own, or neither party wants the home, the home can be put up for sale, and the proceeds distributed as the court deems fair.
In order to protect your interests, it is important that you discuss your objectives and circumstances with an attorney who is experienced with family law in Connecticut.
The family law attorneys at Ruel Ruel Burns Feldman & Britt serve as trusted advisors and represent clients in divorce – in the conference room and courtroom – and appeals in Connecticut. If you are considering a divorce or seeking a modification or appeal of your divorce orders, contact our family law attorneys at 860-206-9096 or online.