When a couple with children divorces, one of the most common points of contention in the divorce proceedings is who will get the family home. In most divorces, the divorcing couple’s most valuable piece of property is the marital home, and they can approach property division of this property through many avenues. Unless there is documented proof that one spouse has actual ownership of the house as separate individual property, a divorce negotiation will likely include lots of discussion about dividing the marital home as property subject to division in divorce.

If you are planning to divorce in Springfield, IL in the near future, it’s wise to have some idea of what to expect when it comes to how the court will look at your marital home. This is especially true if you and your soon-to-be-ex have children. Ultimately, the family court judge reviewing a divorce case has a professional duty to rule in favor of the children’s best interests.

A Marital Home Buyout

When the marital home is the most expensive piece of property a divorcing couple owns, discussions about dividing its value could be very divisive. For example, if one of the spouses purchased the home with a down payment prior to entering the marriage, that spouse may believe that this initial ownership constitutes separate property. However, if records indicate that throughout the duration of the marriage the other spouse paid much more into the mortgage, the judge may rule in favor of that spouse having an equal or greater claim to the home.

In situations in which ownership is unclear, one spouse may be willing to sell their share of ownership over the home to the other, effectively enabling a buyout. Some couples reach similar arrangements on their own. The spouse surrendering their claim of ownership on the marital home may receive several other pieces of property as fair compensation. An official mediation could allow a divorcing couple to reach agreeable terms for a buyout.

Sell and Split

Another option for resolving questions of ownership regarding the family home is to sell the property and split the proceeds. Again, this will require a review of available records to determine each divorcing spouse’s level of claim on the property, but it ultimately makes splitting the property value much simpler by cutting the cost of operation from the equation and focusing instead on the actual market value of the home.

Selling and splitting is more difficult when a divorcing couple has children. Remaining in the family home would mean greater stability for the children, so if it is possible for one parent to remain in control of the home, the court generally prefers this type of arrangement. In some cases, the court may be compelled to rule in favor of selling the family home if the home presents a physical danger to the children who would be living there.

The Marital Home in Child Custody Agreements

If divorcing parents jointly own a home, it is likely that one or both spouses would prefer to remain in the home following a divorce. If there are no deciding factors when it comes to ownership and each parent appears to hold an equal claim to the home, the court will generally rule in favor of the custodial parent remaining in the home with the children. However, both parents may qualify as custodial parents if they maintain 50/50 custody and have equal legal custody over their children. In such cases, a Springfield, IL family court judge would need to review many other areas of evidence to determine which spouse should remain in the home and which needs to move out if the divorcing couple cannot agree to terms on their own.

Cost of Ownership

It’s vital for any person facing divorce to think carefully about their ability to afford to live in the marital home alone once the divorce finalizes. One spouse could potentially make a better argument for affording the home’s cost of ownership, and the resulting child support and/or spousal support agreement would reflect this. If you plan on making your case for assuming full control over the marital home after your divorce, you should consult with a financial advisor to ensure you will be able to afford it.

Additionally, if you receive the marital home in your divorce, you should expect to give up property and assets of equivalent value. For example, if your marital home was worth $200,000 in value accumulated during the course of your marriage, a condition of assuming control over the home would be paying half the value of $100,000 to the other spouse. Carefully consider both the benefits and the potential drawbacks of getting the house in the divorce. The parent who remains in the home with the children should expect to make concessions in other areas of the divorce agreement.

Avoiding Emotional Distress

Divorce can be difficult for children. They may spend months hearing their parents argue and fight, tensions can run high for weeks on end, and everything will seem out of place to them. Being forced out of their home may compound the emotional turmoil they’re experiencing. The court will generally try to avoid this if at all possible, so ultimately ownership of the marital home will fall to one of the parents.

Illinois family court judges must rule in favor of the best interests of the children involved with a divorce case, and divorcing parents must keep this rule in mind during all of their proceedings and custody hearings. While it may be difficult, one of the parents may need to concede some of their custody rights to ensure the children have stability in their lives.

Consult an Attorney as Soon as Possible

If you’re divorcing and you know that the house will become a point of contention in your negotiations, it’s important to connect with a family law lawyer in Springfield, IL as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can provide the insight needed to develop a strong case for assuming ownership of a marital home or majority custody over one’s children. Your attorney can also put you in touch with reputable financial advisors who can provide useful advice for navigating your divorce negotiations.