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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

Property division and the family home in California

Home may be where the heart is, but when two people fall out of love and decide to divorce, they will need to make some very important decisions about what to do with the family abode. When it comes to property division, California is a community property state, meaning that each spouse has an equal ownership interest in all marital assets. Since the family home is often one of the biggest assets a couple holds, it is important to understand what options are available when it comes to divorce.

One option is for one spouse to keep the home. If one spouse keeps the home, they will either buy out the other spouse's interest in the property or exchange the family home for other marital assets. However, if a spouse wants to keep the home, they should keep some financial aspects of homeownership in mind. They generally must refinance the mortgage in their name only, so they must consider whether they'll be able to afford the mortgage on a single income. In addition, homeowner's insurance and property taxes must be paid, and the spouse keeping the home will have to pay for any upkeep or improvements made to the property. Thus, spouses should consider whether they can afford homeownership before deciding to fight for the family home.

For this reason, sometimes spouses decide to sell the home and split the proceeds. This could be emotionally satisfying, as it allows both spouses to leave the place where they were so unhappy and move forward with a fresh start. However, they must understand that there may be tax consequences if they decide to sell the home, and they may also be responsible for paying the broker's commission when the home is sold. They also must agree on a sales price, which could be a point of contention if they already disagree on so many other issues.

In the end, deciding whether to fight for the family home is not just a personal decision -- it is a financial one as well. With so much at stake, it is important that spouses explore all their options when it comes to property division. Doing so will allow them to make decisions that are in their best interests both now and in the years to come.

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