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Before you ask for the house in a divorce, do your research

When divorce is in your future, one of the key factors to determine is what to do with the family home. Many people have emotional attachments to their home. However, they will have to decide what to do with it based on financial factors and set emotion aside.

The first step is to request a preliminary title report from the county recorder or a title company. This will tell you how the ownership of the property is listed. If you and your spouse bought it after you were married, it’s marital property. However if your spouse owned it prior to your marriage or inherited it, it is likely separate property. The title report will also tell you if there are any liens against it.

You should also find out how much the home is worth. You can get a general idea via websites like Zillow.com. However, it’s better to talk with a real estate agent or hire an appraiser to give you the value in writing.

You then should determine how much equity you have in the home. Do you have a mortgage or have you taken out a home equity line of credit? If so, these liabilities need to be subtracted from the home’s fair market value to determine how much of an asset the home is.

Once you know how much the home is worth, you need to determine what you want to do with it. Of course, if the home is in both your and your spouse’s names, this something that you’ll have to work out. Generally, there are three options:

— The spouses sell the home and split the profit.– One spouse buys out the other’s share.– The spouses continue their joint ownership.

Sometimes couples will choose the last option, at least for a time, if they have children whom they don’t want to uproot.

If you want to assume full ownership of the home, it’s essential to determine whether you can afford to do so. Besides the mortgage, can you afford the insurance, taxes, maintenance costs and homeowner’s association fees? If this your choice, it’s wise to get a thorough inspection to determine if there are any costly maintenance issues in the near future.

Your Louisiana family law attorney can advise you on all of these issues and likely can recommend specialists in your area who can help you.

Source: Huffington Post, “Moving On From The Marital House,” Kira Gould, Feb. 25, 2016

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