Every divorce is different, and unfortunately, they each have their own difficulties and stress. What to do with the family home is a big decision in many divorce cases. One spouse or the other may choose to stay in the home and face paying the mortgage, insurance, utilities, maintenance and repairs, and taxes. However, sometimes keeping the house is simply not an option for the custodial parent. They may not have the income on their own to sustain the home, or the divorce may involve bankruptcy. In these cases, it is necessary to move to a new location with the children. 

Regardless of the child’s age, moving to an unfamiliar place can cause anxiety, but paired with the divorce’s upheaval, it can be even more challenging. 

Keeping the Home

If one party wishes to stay in the home, they will likely be required to buy the other spouse’s equity in the property. This purchase may involve a cash amount being paid, or the equity may be traded for other assets which are jointly owned. It may be possible to refinance the mortgage or add a home equity line to pay the other spouse their share of equity in the property.

Maintaining life in the home for the children may provide much-needed stability during a chaotic and confusing time. Some people choose to keep the house for the period of transition and beyond, then make a long-term decision when they are ready.  Some couples or individuals opt for selling the home, as it holds unhappy memories for the children. It is sometimes the best option to start fresh in a new residence. 

Selling the house may seem like a good option for each party to move forward with some cash, but it is vital to understand your home’s value, equity, and the current mortgage payoff amount. After selling costs and commissions, there may not be much left to move forward with, so one spouse may find it easier to stay in the home after all.  

The answer is different for everyone and every situation. Be sure to go over your financial situation and legal options with your family law attorney before putting anything in your divorce decree. 

The Appraisal is Key: If the custodial spouse decides to keep the house, the other spouse should request to have the home independently appraised. This guarantees that the spouse who is leaving receives a fair disbursement of money or assets in exchange. 

Post-Divorce Relocation

Custodial parents are often looking for a fresh start after a divorce and may want to move to another state – whether for a new beginning or to be closer to family and friends. However, it is essential to learn the laws of your state before relocating children over a distance. 

Florida law considers moving 50 miles or more from the family home a relocation (not a temporary change for vacation, education, or providing the child with medical care). Parents may sign a written agreement that outlines the terms of the move and new custody arrangements. Both parents must agree to the relocation.

Hold the Emotional Line

We understand that the divorce, custody agreements, and necessity to move out of your home can cause extreme stress and anxiety. However, it is essential to present the move as a positive development to the children. Be honest about the reasons for leaving and explain how life will be easier once you are in a new situation. Be equally honest about any changes they may perceive as “negative,” such as going from their own bedroom to a shared bedroom or moving to a new school. The more confident you exude that “it will be ok,” the more easily they will adjust.

It is important to acknowledge their emotions and not to dismiss them. Let them know that it is ok to feel sad or scared, let them talk it out, or even yell and cry if necessary to process their feelings. As with any significant change they will experience, children will require a period of time to adjust to their new home and new situation. It is not fair to expect children to be excited during this time, as everything they know is changing. Younger children may adjust more quickly, but regardless of their age, keep a positive attitude while also allowing them to express their feelings of anger, fear, or grief. 

Divorce can be complex and emotional – but hiring an experienced family law attorney is a prudent way to ensure that your rights are protected. If you are facing a divorce today, call the Sarasota offices of bankruptcy and family law attorney Richard V. Ellis.