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How To Sell A House During Divorce in Massachusetts

How To Sell A House During Divorce in Massachusetts

Divorce. When we first fall in love, we are filled with hope and dreams of a lifelong partnership, and the idea of a marriage ending in divorce seems unimaginable. However, the reality is that divorce is a common occurrence. According to the American Psychological Association, the divorce rate for first marriages in the United States is approximately 40 to 50%. This statistic underscores the fact that many couples face the challenge of ending their marriages. One of the most significant and often contentious issues during a divorce is the division of shared assets, such as real estate. What happens to the family home and other properties when a marriage comes to an end?

In many cases, the division of assets is not as straightforward as a 50/50 split. The process involves considering various factors, including the length of the marriage, the contributions of each spouse, and the future needs of both parties. In community property states, assets acquired during the marriage are typically divided equally, but in equitable distribution states, the division aims to be fair but not necessarily equal. This can lead to complex negotiations and decisions about how to fairly distribute real estate and other valuable assets.

Navigating these challenges requires careful planning and often the assistance of legal professionals who can help ensure that both parties receive a fair share of the marital assets. If you’re facing a divorce and need guidance on how to handle shared real estate, it’s crucial to seek expert advice to understand your rights and options. The process can be emotionally and financially taxing, but with the right support, you can work toward a resolution that respects the contributions and needs of both individuals.

Can You Divorce Without Selling the House?

When navigating the complexities of property division during a divorce, you have several options regarding whether to keep the house or sell it and split the proceeds. One of the initial and crucial steps is to present your lawyers and the Court with the date of the house purchase. This information is vital as it helps determine whether the house needs to be sold and the assets divided equitably, or if the house is considered separate property, which can significantly impact the outcome.

If the Court determines that the property is “separate property” — meaning it was purchased before the marriage, gifted, or inherited specifically to you, or bought with separate funds at any time prior to the marriage — the spouse generally has no ownership rights to this property. This applies in both community property states, where assets acquired during the marriage are typically divided equally, and equitable distribution states, where assets are divided fairly but not necessarily equally [1].

However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, if the separate property was significantly improved during the marriage, adding substantial value to the house, the increased value might be considered marital property. In these situations, the expertise of a lawyer is essential to determine whether a property is classified as separate or marital. To minimize legal fees and ensure a smooth process, it’s advisable to consult a real estate professional experienced in divorce property sales. They can offer valuable insights and guidance, helping you navigate this challenging period with greater ease and confidence.

The court will look at several factors to decide who gets the house or how to treat your assets, including:

  • The value of the property.
  • The financial circumstances of each partner.
  • The employability of each partner.
  • Both physical and monetary contributions made to the marital home.
  • The age, physical and mental health of each partner.
  • The amount of time each partner will have custody of the children.

Who Gets The House in A Divorce?

During a divorce, State law will initially govern the division of assets. These laws play a heavy role in how your marital assets are divided. Most states follow the law of equitable distribution. In these cases, during a divorce a judge will divide your property in a way that the Court considers fair. This doesn’t necessarily mean evenly or equally but can be based on a number of factors, including individual contributions to the household (such as child rearing). 

There are nine states with community property laws. They are:  Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Alaska has community property laws as well, but only if you opt in to this method. In community property states, all assets obtained during the marriage (i.e. marital property) are divided 50/50 with only a few exceptions.

There are a few options both you and your partner and/or the Courts might choose when it comes to selling (or not selling) your marital home. These include:

One of the spouses buys out the other legal interest and keeps the home

For married homeowners residing in one of the community property states mentioned earlier, you and your spouse will generally split all assets equally. But what does this really mean, and does it force you to sell your house? Not necessarily! Community property laws dictate that all marital assets, including your home, are to be divided equally between both parties. However, there are ways to negotiate a different arrangement if you wish to keep the house.

You can negotiate with your spouse either in or before Court to buy out their legal interest in the property. This negotiation can be a part of the divorce settlement process, where you agree to compensate your spouse for their share of the home’s equity. By doing so, you can retain ownership of the house. To achieve this, you must be able to assume the full financial responsibility for the property and ensure that your name alone appears on the title. The Court will specify a timeframe within which these changes need to be made after the divorce decree is finalized.

This process often involves refinancing the mortgage in your name alone, securing a loan that allows you to pay off your spouse’s share, or using other assets to compensate for their equity in the home. Consulting with a real estate attorney or a financial advisor can provide additional guidance and ensure that you meet all legal requirements to successfully retain ownership of your home.

One spouse is allowed use and occupancy of the home for a specified time period; typically through when the youngest child turns eighteen, then the house can be sold.

In many states, a parent who has custody of minor children may be granted the right to use the marital home until the youngest child reaches the age of eighteen. This arrangement is often made to provide stability for the children during the transitional period following a divorce. The Court will determine the specifics of this arrangement, including financial responsibilities. The custodial parent may be required to pay the mortgage, insurance, and other related bills either in full or in part during this time. This ensures that the home remains a safe and secure environment for the children.

The house typically remains under the custodial parent’s use until all children in the household reach the age of eighteen. At that point, the house may need to be sold, and the proceeds from the sale are then divided between the spouses according to the terms set by the Court. This division takes into account various factors, such as each spouse’s financial contributions to the home and their overall financial situation post-divorce. The goal is to reach a fair distribution of assets that reflects both parties’ needs and contributions throughout the marriage. Consulting with a legal professional can provide further guidance on how these laws apply in your specific situation and ensure that your rights and interests are protected throughout the process.

Co-own the home

Divorce doesn’t have to be an emotional and monetary war. One approach to minimize the turmoil is by considering the option of co-owning the property after the divorce. This arrangement can often be the best situation for the family’s welfare, especially if there are children involved. By remaining co-owners, both parents can ensure that their children continue living in the same house, which helps maintain stability in their lives. This stability includes staying within the same school districts and community, reducing the emotional disruption that often accompanies a divorce.

For instance, consider a scenario where a husband and wife, who have three children, decide to divorce. The husband works outside of the home and is the sole financial provider for the family, while the wife is the primary caregiver for their children and manages the household. Given her status as a homemaker, she may not have the financial resources, job history, or ability to buy out her husband’s share of the property. In such cases, co-owning the home allows the wife to continue living there with the children, ensuring they have a stable environment.

This arrangement, sometimes referred to as “nesting,” involves both parents keeping the family home intact while they alternate living in the house with the children. This approach minimizes disruption for the children, allowing them to remain in a familiar environment and continue their daily routines with minimal changes. By choosing to co-own the property, parents can focus on the best interests of their children, providing a sense of continuity and security during a challenging time.

Seeking guidance from real estate professionals who specialize in handling divorce-related property matters can further ease the process. These experts can help navigate the legal and financial complexities, ensuring that both parties understand their rights and responsibilities while working towards a fair and amicable resolution.

The house is sold immediately and any equity is split up

In the vast majority of cases, selling the house can be the simplest and most straightforward solution. The house is put up on the market at an agreed upon price with an experienced listing agent and, once it’s sold, the assets are split up either 50/50 or divided as the Court mandates. Depending on the market in your area and type and condition of your home, this could be a very fast solution (or very slow). If your area’s housing market is sluggish, the house is in poor repair, or there are liens against the title, a regular home sale likely will not work for your situation. In those special cases, selling the property directly to a professional homebuyer or investor might be a faster and easier way to get the property sold so you can move on with your life.

Steps to Sell a Home During Divorce

1. Hire A Divorce Specialist Real Estate Agent

Before putting the house on the market, your first step is to determine who gets what either by discussing the matter yourselves, through your lawyers, or ultimately through the Court. This is a crucial step because divorce can be an extremely turbulent and emotional time for both partners and their families. The division of assets, especially the family home, often brings additional stress and complexity to an already challenging situation.

It is essential to have clear communication and a mutual understanding to avoid conflicts later on which is where engaging professionals with expertise and experience in handling real estate during a divorce can provide invaluable guidance and support. These professionals can help you navigate the intricate legal and financial aspects of selling a home amidst a divorce, ensuring that the process is as smooth and fair as possible.

They can assist in assessing the property’s value, understanding the tax implications, and determining the best timing for the sale. Additionally, they can offer advice on whether it might be more beneficial to sell the property before, during, or after the divorce is finalized, based on your specific circumstances. By seeking the help of seasoned professionals, you can focus on moving forward and rebuilding your life while they handle the complexities of the real estate transaction.

2. Agree On Home Sale Specifics

You and your partner will need to decide how you would like to sell the house. Would you prefer a fast sale so that you can split the assets and move on with your life quickly, or is it worth it to you both to spend a few more months preparing and potentially fixing up the property to make it “market ready” so that it can sell for the most money possible in the current housing market? If you can’t come to a decision through your lawyers, the Court may need to become involved.

If you decide to spend the money on any necessary repairs and upgrades, you’ll want to come to an agreement on how to split those expenses, as well as how that investment may impact the final split of the profits. Before you spend one more dime, make sure to finalize these agreements via signed contracts under the advisement of a lawyer so that you’re not left high and dry at close. 

But expenses and profits are just the tip of the iceberg. How will the house be dealt with during course of listing it on the market? Whose agent will you use? What price point should it be set at? Will it be empty or will you or your spouse live in it until the property is sold? Who is responsible for the mortgage and bills and, if no one is living in the house, who is the one who will make sure that it’s ready to be shown during open houses and daily showings? If possible, figure these main factors our or let your lawyers hash this out before taking it to court. This can save you a lot of time and help keep any profits from the home sale being eaten up by lawyer fees along the way while they represent you in court.

3. Know What to Expect in Order to Close the Sale

There’s one more step where you and your ex-partner will need to try to remain objective and work together so that you can both make a profit – reviewing offers from potential buyers. If only one or two offers filter in, then this might be an easy decision, but in places where the housing market is hot and you get multiple different offers there might be a lot of back and forth using your lawyers and real estate agent about which offer is the best for your situation. To help with this, try to agree on a strategy before putting up the house for sale with whomever you choose as your real estate agent. Whether you decide to take the first offer that comes in with no contingencies or you would prefer to choose the offer that will net you both the most profit at close, you must come to a decision on sale strategy together before you offer your property to the market and sell. 

4. Divide the Proceeds

It’s the final step, and hopefully the simplest! Whether the Courts or your lawyers helped you settle your divorce, you should already understand how the proceeds of the house sale will be divided. If there are any liens or obligations on the house, the escrow company will pay them off before distributing the money so that you can move on with your life.


5. Sell Your House AS-IS to A Cash Buyer

Are you stuck in a situation where you and your ex-partner can’t (or don’t want to) speak? Are you ready to be out of the marriage and on to the next phase of your life? Is the stress from the divorce eating away at you, and a fast and straightforward sale of your shared marital property seems like the best option for everyone involved? Selling your property to a direct cash home buyer or investor might be the right option for you!

Investors and direct home buyers pay cash for properties, no matter what the condition or the owners’ financial (and marital) situation. They specialize in fast closings so that property owners can get out from under a property faster than with a traditional home sale. They also purchase houses and properties as-is, meaning that even if the house needs upgrades or major repairs, they still are willing to pay cash for it and close as quickly as possible. For two spouses stuck in a painful and expensive divorce, this might be the best option for the family. Not only are they able to sell the house for a fair cash amount, but they’re able to close quickly and without having to negotiate terms through lawyers, a shared real estate agent, and potentially through other family members.

Selling Your House During A Divorce? Contact Us For Your Cash Offer Today!

Gaeta Properties is a local house buying company that’s built their business by buying houses for cash, no matter what the condition or the homeowners’ financial situation. We promise competitive cash offers without the hassle of dealing with real estate agents, lawyers, and more. If a direct home sale sounds like the best option for you, let’s chat! Call us day or night at (781) 258-6976. We have a reputation for buying houses with less stress and less fees. 

If you own a property that you need to sell fast due to divorce, we have a solution. Contact us today and get a competitive cash offer for that house or rental property or potentially explore how we can help as your listing broker. We buy homes, no matter what your individual financial situation or the property’s condition. Even if the house has been neglected for years or suffered damage in the last storm, once you accept our fair cash offer our team of experts will handle all of those expensive repairs and upgrades so you don’t have to! We make selling a house during a divorce as easy and hassle-free as possible.

(781) 258-6976