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In a divorce, the family home usually raises more than its fair share of tough questions. As possessions go, a house big, costly and holds a lot of emotions.

Talking to friends, family, an attorney and accountant may help ease the mind. There is usually more than one way to deal with the question of the house and then move on with the rest of your life.

One spouse buys out the other

One spouse may want to keep the home, perhaps to protect the children from too many sudden changes, or for its location or because it might be a bad market for sellers right now.

If one spouse wants to buy out the other, they will want to think clearly about issues like:

  • The real reasons they want the house
  • Whether they can afford to live in it and keep it maintained
  • How long they and the children will likely live there
  • What they may have to trade for the house in the divorce

If a buyout is the right choice, getting the numbers right is essential. That means an exact value for the house, including the current market value, equity already in the house, likely future sale price and costs, taxes, etc.

The couple sells the home and divides the proceeds

This approach is cleaner and allows everyone a fresh start. But it may leave one or both spouses, and perhaps kids, with a housing shortage. Do the math carefully to look at the post-sale living situation for everyone in the family.

Keeping the house under joint ownership

While this is the opposite of a “clean break,” it can make sense especially if the children need to stay in the house with one of the parents, at least for a while.

The couple could think through the exact financial arrangements and decisions, past and future.

For example, who will pay for home repairs and updates, how and on what schedule? Will the spouse in the house pay for taxes, utilities, insurance and minor repairs? What counts as minor?

Agreements should be solid and well suited to the realities each spouse and each child is likely to face.