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What happens to a jointly owned home in divorce or breakup?

Many Georgia residents are still recovering emotionally and financially from the recession that started around 2008. A big part of the recession was the collapse of the housing market. For many here in Georgia and around the county, the dream of home ownership turned into a nightmare.

The economy and housing market have largely recovered, but there are still times when home ownership can feel like more of a liability than an asset. One of these times is during divorce. Questions commonly arise about what should be done with the marital residence. And for couples who have chosen cohabitation instead of marriage, a breakup involving a shared home can be even messier.

Whether you are married or cohabitating, the dissolution of the relationship will certainly be more complicated if you own a home together. In most cases, there are two basic choices: One spouse/partner keeps the house and remains living there or the couple sells the property and splits the proceeds.

From here, there are a number of other choices and details that need to be worked out. If selling the home, for instance, you may need to determine each person’s respective share of the proceeds based on their financial contributions to the mortgage and to improving equity in the home. If you are going through a divorce, your family law attorney can help advise you on what to do with the shared home and what that decision will entail.

If you and your partner are unmarried and co-own a home, you may have a much harder time sorting out the details during a split. For this and other reasons, you may wish to draft a pre-purchase agreement (before buying, of course) that lays out a plan for the property if the relationship does not work out.

Please remember that if both names are on the mortgage, lenders may not care very much whether or not your relationship has ended. As such, you should be extremely careful and thorough about considering the potential consequences before getting a home together.

That being said, there are solutions for couples facing a divorce or breakup. If you need guidance or have questions, an experienced family law attorney may be able to help you understand your rights and options.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Unmarried Couples Buying a House Together May Also Be Buying Trouble," Jack M. Guttentag, March 20, 2014

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