What are Your Options for Splitting the House in Divorce?

A divorced couple tearing blue paper with the symbol of the house. Visual concept for legal blog titled

If you’re thinking about divorce, you will also need to consider how your property will be divided. Significantly, the marital home is often the biggest asset a couple acquires when they are married. What will happen to it during divorce proceedings can be a contentious issue and spouses may have several options to consider. In the event a divorcing couple cannot decide who will get the house or how the asset will be divided, a judge will issue a ruling that determines the outcome.

How is the Marital Home Divided in Divorce?

Missouri is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing marital property — including the marital home — in divorce. But this doesn’t always mean that property will be distributed equally, although that is usually the case. Assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage will be divided in a way that is deemed fair. Notably, it is only marital property that is subject to division in divorce.

Missouri law characterizes property as either marital or separate property. Marital property includes any property or assets acquired by either spouse while they are married. This is in contrast with separate property, which is owned by either spouse before the marriage. In addition, these types of properties can be commingled — what was once separate property can be converted into marital property, based upon how it is treated during the marriage.

Can You Sell a House During Divorce in Missouri?

Many states have automatic ex parte orders that go into effect when a case is filed that prevent property or a house from being sold during divorce, but it is important to understand that this is not the case in Missouri. It is not illegal to sell the house during the divorce — however, absent a court order, both spouses typically have to be involved in the sale. This can often make selling the house difficult from a practical standpoint while divorce proceedings are ongoing, especially in contentious cases. However, if the parties are in agreement, the home can be sold and the proceeds divided.

What are Your Options for the House in Divorce?

The marital home isn’t just a financial asset — it may be an emotional one, too. This can make parting with it particularly difficult. But in some cases, it might make sense not to sell it. Specifically, there are three main options couples have when it comes to dealing with the marital home in divorce, including the following:

  • Sell the house and split the assets — The couple may sell the home and use the proceeds to pay off the mortgage. Any remaining proceeds would then be divided between the couple.
  • Co-own the house — If a divorcing couple is amicable, they might consider co-owning the house and sharing mortgage payments. This can help ensure the children do not have to move and have continued stability. A couple might include a provision in their divorce decree that the house should be sold at a certain time, such as when the youngest child goes to college.
  • One spouse buys out the other spouse — A buyout is an arrangement that is agreed upon by the spouses where one spouse pays the other for their share of the value of the home.

Couples can work together to find creative solutions regarding the division of the marital home using mediation or the collaborative process. For instance, if you and your spouse agree that a buyout is the best option for your situation, you can structure this provision of your settlement agreement to make payments over a period of time. Doing so can be helpful in cases where refinancing or paying a lump sum may not be possible.

Can a Court Order the Sale of the Marital Home?

A judge may order the sale of the marital residence if spouses cannot reach an agreement regarding what should happen to it. Importantly, if a court order sets forth instructions for the sale of the marital home, they must be followed — otherwise, sanctions can be imposed on the party preventing or delaying the sale. In fact, Missouri courts have held that a divorce judgment ordering the sale of the marital residence must contain specific information. The order must include how the marital residence will be placed for sale, the time frame in which the house must be sold, and any reasonable conditions upon the sale of the home.

Contact an Experienced Missouri Divorce Attorney

Dividing the marital home and other marital property during divorce can be complex. It’s best to discuss your options with a skillful attorney. Divorce and family law attorney Mark A. Wortman provides committed counsel and adept representation to clients in the greater Kansas City, Missouri area for divorce and a wide variety of family law matters. To schedule a confidential consultation to learn how he can help, please contact him today online or by calling (816) 523-6100.