Should I Keep the House?

Home Divorce can shake you to your very foundations. Everything changes, and many people want to cling to the house as the only stability they find in a shifting world. Whether keeping the house is your best option depends on many different factors. Here are what you need to consider in making that important decision.

1. What does the house represent to you? 

Home is a refuge from the world, and for many, it is an extension of themselves and their lives. It is the place the children grew up, where you spent happier days, an embodiment of what your marriage should have been. But are those good reasons to keep the home?

Make a list of each of the benefits of living in the house, then for each one ask yourself what feeling that gives you, and where else could you live to get a similar feeing? For example, I like the fact that my house is set off from the street. It makes me feel safe and feeds my privacy. But I guess I could feel safe in a gated community. And I could feel privacy if I had shutters on the windows, or even thick drapes. Bit by bit, this exercise will help you identify what is important to you and open up to possibilities other than keeping the house.

2. If you keep the house, how long will you live there?

If you plan to keep the house forever, then asking for it in the divorce makes more sense than if you plan to live there for just a couple of years until the kids are grown and gone. Refinancing the mortgage to get your spouse’s name off the loan is costly, and so are the costs of sale when you sell it. Over a short period of time, those expenses are likely to exceed the appreciation of the home, and you will lose money by keeping the house. But if you have many years of appreciation ahead of you, keeping the house might justify the costs to acquire it in the divorce and sell it later on.

3. Does continuing to hold it jointly with my ex make sense?

If you intend to keep the house for just a few years, continuing to hold it jointly with your soon-to-be-ex might make sense. That way you don’t have to refinance to get his name off the mortgage and pay him his share of the equity, nor do you have to trade valuable assets such as retirement accounts for his equity. You can keep your same comfortable mortgage payments, you won’t have to pay costly refinancing expenses or 100% of the cost of sale when you sell, and you will both share in the appreciation.

4. What will you have to give up to keep it?

You may be tempted to trade retirement assets for his equity in the house, but before you do, ask yourself whether you’ll be able reconstruct those retirement assets between now and retirement. Retirement planning in divorce is difficult, because you are already giving up half the retirement in the divorce. Can you afford to give up even more to keep the house?  If your answer is yes, you’ll give up anything to keep the house, realize that you’ll still end up having to sell it when the support runs out and you need funds to retire. By keeping it now, you may only be postponing the inevitable.

5. Can you afford the mortgage payments and home upkeep?

You may be charmed by a low mortgage payment, but once you refinance at today’s interest rates to borrow funds to pay him off and get his name off the mortgage, you may not find your monthly payment quite so charming. You’ll also need to consider the regular maintenance that the house requires, as well as any deferred maintenance that has gone by the wayside as the marriage deteriorated. Buying him out of a home that is falling down around you may turn out to be a disastrous decision.

6. Are you signing up for hidden tax consequences if you keep the house?

You can exclude up to $250,000 of capital gains when you sell your home if you’ve lived there for two of the five years before sale. If you and your spouse sell the home jointly, together you can exclude up to $500,000 of gain. But once you become the sole owner of the house, when you sell it, the entire cost of sale and capital gains liability will be yours alone. If the gain exceeds $250,000 you will have to pay tax on the excess, even though your combined $500,000 exclusion might have saved you from paying taxes. So if your home has gone up significantly in value over the years, you might be better off selling it while it is in both names.


  1. What if I can’t afford the house on my own, but can’t leave because of my kids. If I keep it and fix it up? Or just let him have it and find my own cheaper place

  2. I know of parents who keep the home while renting an apartment. When one spouse has the kids, the other is in the apartment. The parents move back and forth, not the children.

  3. He left four years ago to work abroad and have affairs. He has paid the mortgage monthly since we bought the home jointly 10 years ago. I need the home to live I due to fighting cancer and it being near treatment facilities.
    He is now telling me I need to pay the entire mortgage monthly because he is moving and needs more money to pay for housing in Europe.
    What do I do?

  4. My husband left three years ago and is continuing to pay the mortgage but I want to sell it so I can move but he doesn’t. He doesn’t have enough money to buy me out or the credit to refinance it on his own. The house is in both of our names and I can’t afford an attorney but I also can’t afford to find another place without selling this house first. If I file on my own requesting that we sell our house and he contests, can I then hire attorney even if my papers of already been filed ?

    • If he can’t buy you out, and you don’t want the house, then a judge will order it sold. But a judge can’t do that until you file and request a court hearing. You can always hire an attorney, at any time after you file. Everyone is entitled to representation.

  5. My husband told me 2weks ago he wants divorce. We face hard times during the recession He was lost a great paying job in 2008 and I was laid off in 2010. He was able to pick up sales positions only to be terminated within a short amount of time. When I was laid off I had to make a decision about pulling down my pension to pay bills. I also used it to buy a few large screen TV .Since then he drinks a six pack w/pot nitely. I have tried to hang in there with him because I love him but it brakes my heart that after my investing my pension he no longer wants to be married to me. It will be15 years married in a few month. We don’t have children his oldest is 29yrs and the youngest is 20yrs. In 2011 my husband wasn’t getting along well with his manager so he quit his job. I don’t think he thought of the consequences because I ended up having all of my tax refunds since then taken for child support. We have a great house that I found picked out an have invested every penny into. My husband told me that this was his last summer in the house. I want to keep the house. It wont be so easy because I just bought a new car that i’ll have to sell, but it is doable. I have about 15 more years to work before retirement and I have started paying back the pension I pulled down. I would suggest to my husband that I can pay the mortgage and stay in the house, but he’s trifflin. and I don’t want after having divorced him to find that he had an affair with children on the way with a new obligation. I don’t have children and would like to become a foster parent. What should I do?

    • Talk to an attorney right away about your options in divorce. If you are trying to stay married (it’s hard to tell from your post) then you can suggest that he and you try marriage counseling, but if he won’t do that, then it sounds like you will be getting divorced. So find out from an attorney what you can expect so you are prepared.

  6. My husband wants me to keep the house. My income alone will cover the mortgage, but will barely cover all living expenses so i can rent out a room. Im concerned with current interest rates, although still low, will be increasing and what interest rate, or loan id qualify for just based on my income, which gross is apx 3x mortgage, not including taxes and insurance. Selling it would probably mean giving up half the profits let alone any chance of coming back. Were doing a legal separation or suspended divorce first.

    • Talk to your bank or a mortgage broker to find out what loan you’d qualify for based on your income. Then decide what you should do based on your situation. Your husband doesn’t have the right to make decisions for you that aren’t in your best interest.

  7. My husband left 4 years ago and has deposited £780 in the joint account for my expenses, I retired 6 years ago and he is retiring at the end of the year, although he has been off work due to ill health. He is getting a lump sum and also drawing an independent pension with a state pension at the end of the year. He is asking for my daughter to loan him £300.00 for a property as he said he would not ask me to leave my home which is paid for, however I feel this is a way of getting his share without sharing his pension. I have some savings and he has said I need to get a financial advisor to invest the money for a pension. What do you think?

  8. My husband wants to divorce me. We being married for 9 yrs. We have 2 kids. I want to keep the house to raise my kids,and give them stability. I asked him to buy me the house. He told me I only rate 25% of child support not a house. I think my kids are worth this house not an apartment where he will make me move again. The home is under his name,and mine. He complains that he pays too much in property taxes.
    He is military,has more education than me. I have always work minimum wages. I could feed my kids but I can’t effort a mortgage. What are my chances of keeping the house?

    • We are not attorneys, and I don’t know the law in your state. It is possible that your husband owes you alimony as well as child support. Ask an attorney about support and keeping the house.

      • Is your answer for everything, “Hire an attorney”? “See a financial advisor”,

        You are the type of person who keeps this perpetual lie going that we NEED professional consultation.

        Since the feminization of our culture, women seem to think they have the right to take as much as they can from the man, and leave him out to dry.

        What about a man who did everything he could, took his family to Hawaii 7 times in 5 years, Disneyland 3 times in 4 years, and bent over backwards to keep a wife happy, who just got plain bored with him, and felt she needed more excitement in her life, despite the man’s best efforts to hold it together, while going through a mid-life change?

        What is the wife entitled to? An attorney who’ll screw the man because she wanted more excitement.

        This women’s empowerment movement thing is really getting old. GOOD MEN, are getting the shaft because women have been sold this lie on television that marriage is about excitement, shopping, success, and collection of worthless, meaningless, material possessions, and when “need” isn’t met, it’s time to jump ship, and bail.

        Im a man, and I have an over medicated, suicidal, sleep deprived, hormonally imbalanced, materialistic, empowered, crazy wife who acts and thinks like a child, and is utterly incapable of raising our kids properly. She wants me to move out of the house. I say nuts to that. If she’s not happy, SHE can move on because despite what her terrible math skills have allowed her to calculate, I’ve spent twice of all our combined expendetures for over 12 years, and now she wants to throw me out and have cake and eat it too?

        Sorry, but that’s not gonna happen.

        • When you married, you entered into a legal contract and created a legal entity, your marriage. In order to terminate that entity, you need to enter into another legal contract, and the terms of that contract are proscribed by law. If you and your spouse know and understand the laws of your state that govern marriage and divorce, then you will be able to negotiate an agreement and draft a legal contract. If you do not know the laws of your state that relate to the issues, and most people don’t, then you will need to seek legal advice. That is the reality of the situation.

          • You addressed none of my valid arguments. Again, you are telling me to seek legal advice.

            What say you about my situation?

            It seems this site is CHOCK full of women who’s goal it is to leech, and game the legal system to get as much of a marriage as possible, regardless of morality issues.

            Their IS blame. People ARE culpable for their actions. I have been a model husband who’s paid more than twice the amount of our shared expenses. Why should my wife be entitled to the majority of assets when she’s the mentally ill who just can’t seem to get past this 7 year itch, and be more compassionate during a typical, mid-life change that most men go through. (coincidentally, we’ve been married for 7 years).

          • You sound like you were a good husband. Not every woman on here is a leech. In the 28 years that I was married I was the one who had a job all the time while my husband was in and out of jobs. While I was at work he was at home getting plastered. He had ads on Craigslist for women to come to our home during the day while I was at work. He chatted online to many women while I was at work. In the end he threatened to shoot me and my daughter, forcing me to get a PFA. Now he wants the home that I have been paying for on my own for the past two years. It is also on property that my mom and dad gave to us as part of my inheritance. My mom still lives next door. He wants to move his money hungry girlfriend into my home. If that happens I wont be able to visit my mom without seeing him living in my home..
            Don’t judge every woman on here based on the actions and statements of a few.

          • It’s pretty clear why wife wants to leave you. You’re pretty stubborn and rude. It has nothing to do with “feminization.” Obviously you don’t give open heartedly or else you wouldn’t keep a tally of you versus her leisure contributions. You need legal advise because the facts need to be evaluated. You need someone to tell you how shitty your attitude has made your situation. I hope your wife gets everything she asks for. If she’s out up with you all those years, she’s definitely earned it. Feel bad for any woman who falls for someone so full of himself.

  9. Tammy Toole says:

    My question is, we have been married 10 yrs now and he had the house before we got together. We have never changed anything to have to put my name on the deed. Since we have been married 10 yrs now would I have any right to it.. My other question is if we were able to work things out and we haven’t done any of that stuff with the deed would his kids be able to take the house from me at a later date years from now if anything ever happened to him. I’m on disability and the house is paid for.. I don’t mean to sound selfish but I don’t know what I would do..

    • I do not know what the law is in your state regarding your interest in the house if your name isn’t on it, but a knowledgeable attorney can tell you. If he dies and his will leaves his estate to his kids, you may have a right to claim against his estate anyway because you are his wife. If he leaves the house to you, then you get it. If it is retitled in your name jointly with right of survivorship, you get it no matter what his will says. Hint, hint ….

  10. I am afraid my husband is trying to purposefully lose his job since we separated. Can I ask for an amount of support and maintenance, or does it have to be a percentage?

  11. Sylvia almeida says:

    Need a financial planner for divorce I live in Santa Clarita, please refer a women for me. Sylvia Almeida

  12. I gave her the house, just sign the paper!

  13. Vera Bowlding says:

    My husband has filed for divorce. We have been separated for over 5 years. I have paid the mortgage since he has been out of the house and before. He has had affairs. The house has a Veterans’s loan. I don’t want to give up any of my retirement. He makes less money than me. What can I do to keep the house and not share my retirement. I have not retired yet.

  14. Mary Beth says:

    My husband of 21 years wants a dissolution. I have a son with special medical needs and another with a TBI.
    Do I keep the house? Change might create problems for my children.

    I need financial advice on how to plan for my children with special medical needs. Do you know of an expert?

  15. Hi Mandy,
    I wish I had some advice, but unfortunately am in the same predicament. I can’t afford the mortgage on my own, and it’s a big house to keep up with while working full-time and taking care of the kids. But my kids are still young and we have a tight community, I don’t want to uproot them on top of everything else. I will stuck, especially since I don’t want a divorce in the first place.

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