Splitting Foundations: Who Claims the House in a Divorce?
A house divided against itself cannot stand or so goes the old adage. Yet when a marriage dissolves, the literal house that once held a family together must often be split in two.
Dividing up marital property, including the marital home, is one of the most contentious and emotional parts of the divorce process. Each spouse usually wants to keep the home for reasons ranging from financial to emotional.
But who has the stronger claim? Who gets to keep the house when foundations crack and a marriage crumbles?
Is the House Marital Property or Separate Property?
Minnesota is an equitable distribution state, meaning that marital property will be divided fairly between the spouses while separate property will go to the owning spouse. So, the first question that needs to be determined is whether the house is considered marital or separate property.
Following Minn. Stat. § 518.003, marital property generally includes any assets acquired during the marriage, while separate property is any property acquired before or after the marriage or received as a gift or inheritance to only one spouse.
Additionally, it does not matter whether only one spouse is listed on the property title. In most cases, the courts will consider a family home marital property unless:
- The house was a gift or inheritance from a third party to one spouse and not the other
- The house was acquired after the divorce
- The house is excluded from divorce proceedings due to a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement
- The house was acquired by one spouse before the marriage
If you can show substantial evidence that the home should not be considered marital property, then you may be able to keep the house. However, determining whether the house is or isn’t marital property is exceptionally nuanced and should be guided by an experienced divorce lawyer.
How Minnesota Courts Determine Who Gets the House in a Divorce
In Minnesota, courts consider several factors when determining who will be awarded the marital home in a divorce under Minn. Stat. § 518.58. While no single factor is decisive, issues related to minor children, premarital or nonmarital interests, and the value the parties themselves place on the home are often influential.
- If the divorcing couple has minor children, and both parents want the home, courts will likely award it to the primary caregiver to minimize disruption in the children’s lives. The best interests of minor children are paramount in divorce proceedings.
- Premarital or nonmarital interests in the home – such as a down payment made before marriage or an inheritance used to pay down the mortgage – may strengthen one spouse’s claim. It can be financially difficult for the other spouse to pay out the value of these interests while also splitting any marital equity.
- The subjective value placed on the home by each spouse can also impact judicial determinations. If the parties dispute the market value, and all other factors are equal, courts tend to award the home to the spouse who values it higher to maximize the overall marital estate.
- The court will still aim for an equitable division of assets. So, if awarding the disputed home to one spouse results in a significant disparity, the court will order equalization through a property settlement payment. For example, if the home is the couple’s main asset, the spouse keeping it may have to refinance and pay the other half of the equity.
Ultimately, no single factor will determine who gets the house. The court will look at the whole picture to make the most fair and equitable decision.
Should You Should Keep the House?
If you are trying to decide whether you should fight to keep the marital home in your Minnesota divorce, here are some important considerations:
- Can you afford it? Review your post-divorce budget carefully. Be conservative with income estimates and expenses. Get pre-qualified to refinance the mortgage into your name only.
- Is it the best investment? Consider if the house still meets your needs. Will you need to move for a job or to be closer to family? Is the home too large or expensive to maintain on your own?
- What is most important? Keeping the house may limit funds available for retirement, college savings, or other goals. Prioritize what matters most.
- Are you ready to move on? Holding onto the marital home because of memories may prevent you from moving forward emotionally. This could influence your decision.
- How will it impact the kids? Uprooting children from the marital home could add to the disruption of divorce. But a fresh start elsewhere could also be beneficial.
Deciding if keeping the house is the right move requires carefully weighing your financial, emotional, and logistical needs post-divorce.
If you are facing the difficult process of dividing marital property like your home in an upcoming Minnesota divorce, contact our divorce attorneys at Martine Law for a consultation. Our team can provide guidance on Minnesota laws regarding property division while developing strategies optimized for your unique situation. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.