For many couples going through a divorce, the most valuable part of the community estate is the marital residence. As with all community property, the marital residence should be divided in a just and right division of the entire community estate.
The first part of considering what is a just and right division is figuring out what the marital property is worth. This can be done with expert testimony such as a licensed real estate appraiser or a real estate agent. Value can also be determined by the couple’s own sworn statements, comparable sales listing, or even the county tax appraisal (although this is less reliable). The amount, if any, owed on the house must also be taken into consideration.
Once the value of the marital house is determined, that value must be considered along with the other assets of the community estate. For example, if a house is worth $100,000 and there is a retirement account of $100,000- one spouse could take the house and one spouse could take the retirement account. If that same house was worth $100,000 and there were no other assets, the parties could decide to sell the house and split the proceeds. Sometimes, if there is not any equity, or very little equity, there is no real value in being awarded the house other than a simple preference.
Other non-monetary facts can also come into play in determining what to do with the house. If a couple has children in school and mom is being named the primary conservator, the couple may want mom to stay in the house so the kids don’t have to move schools. The couple’s other assets would then have to be divided accordingly.
Determining the best way to handle a marital residence is best decided by consulting with your attorney and taking into consideration all the assets that make up the community estate.
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