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The Family Home – What to do when you separate

When a couple decides to split, often their largest asset is their home. If you are married, no matter whose name is on title, you both have an equal right to half the equity in the home. If you are living common-law, you don’t have the same rights. Always seek legal advice from a family law lawyer, particularly if you have cohabited for many years and have children together.

Your first step is to decide whether one person buys out the other or you sell. Either way, you will need a local realtor to establish market value, as well as a real estate lawyer, either to transfer title or to help with the sale and eventual new purchase(s).

If you decide to sell, you split the proceeds, after paying realtor and legal fees. Home staging, decluttering and marketing are key factors to getting the most money as possible. There may be substantial prepayment penalties for breaking your current mortgage so be sure to call your lender to find out how much you owe.

If you decide not to sell, the person staying buys the other person’s share of the equity in the home. A mortgage expert understands that divorce is a special circumstance where you are eligible to borrow a higher percentage of your home’s value, provided you qualify. 

You will need a Separation Agreement whether you refinance your home or apply for a new mortgage, especially if support is being paid. Mediation is the quickest, most cost-effective ways to come to an agreement. Always obtain independent legal advice from a family law lawyer so you understand your rights.

Divorce can be tough on your children. Including them in your plan to sell the house, as well as letting them know what the next steps will be, can make them feel more comfortable about their future. If both of you offer similar answers to your kids, you won’t confuse or upset them by providing contradictory information.

My background led me to help people going through separation, along with my network of experienced professionals. It may be a difficult time, but you are not alone.

Debbie Braun, Realtor at Keller Williams


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