Should I Keep the House After Divorce for the Sake of the Kids?

Getting a divorce might be the right thing to do, but it will have a big effect on your children’s lives, creating uncertainty and possibly triggering a range of negative reactions. To lower the trauma of family change, you may want to stay in your current home, especially if you have primary custody of the kids.

According to an article in the New York Times, “psychologists, sociologists and epidemiologists have long recognized that children who move often tend to perform worse in school and have more behavioral problems than those with a firmly rooted picket fence.”

If your children have strong friendships and you live in a great school district, is it smart to stay put in the home after a divorce? That depends…

Can You Afford the Home?

Trying to maintain a stable environment for your children is a laudable goal, but it cannot come at the sake of your financial stability. If you stay in the home, you’ll have to take on the full responsibility of paying the mortgage, homeowner’s insurance, property tax, utilities, and all the incidental costs of maintaining a house. If these costs were a stretch when you had a two-income household, it’s doubtful that you’ll be able to maintain it on your own as a single. This is also assuming your ex-spouse will let you keep the home and that you are able to refinance on your own to take ownership of the house.

Will Someone Help?

If you cannot afford the cost of keeping the home, then you’ll need some financial help if you want to keep it. Your ex might be willing to help if you can convince him how important it is for the children to stay in one place instead of getting uprooted. You may also need to accept some compromises. Your ex-husband, for example, may request more time with the children or a say in how the house is managed if he is supporting you. He may also stipulate that he’ll only pay until the last child graduates from high school.

Depending on your ex-husband to finance your home is a risk. He may struggle to find the money, since he must now cover the full cost of his own housing. What happens if he re-marries and wants to buy a house with his new wife?

You may consider asking your parents, siblings, grandparents, or other family members to help cover the mortgage. Even if a family member is willing to help, you’ll be reliant on this person, and circumstances can change quickly. What happens if they face a health emergency or if you get into a fight?

At the end of the day, it may be a better idea to move to a smaller home, townhouse, or apartment that you know you can afford on your own. This may disrupt your children’s lives, but all of these challenges can be overcome with lots of communication, love, and understanding. If you’re worried about bills or have to live under the thumb of your ex-husband just to afford a house, that isn’t a good deal for you or your kids. A house is just walls. Your children need your love and support more than they need a specific address.

If you are still in the planning stages of your divorce or early in the process, then do yourself a big favor and sign up for the next Second Saturday Workshop in your area. At this workshop, you’ll hear advice from divorce attorneys, certified divorce financial planners, and other experts who will help you prepare for this major life change.

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