For many people, their home is one of the greatest investments they make in their life. You may have invested significant funds into buying your house, made an effort to renovate it to suit your life and spent time making it feel like home. As a result, the fate of your house may be one of the most contentious issues if your marriage ends in divorce.
How do Alabama courts divide property?
Because Alabama is an equitable distribution state, courts attempt to divide a couple’s jointly-owned property in a way that is fair and equitable rather than what is strictly equal. This jointly-owned property usually includes the assets, money and debts acquired during your marriage. Generally, you or your spouse will be considered the sole owner of gifts and inheritance given to only one of you.
Depending on your circumstances, the court may determine that an unequal division is the best way to be fair to you and your spouse. This can involve a wide variety of different factors, including:
- How long you were married to your spouse
- The contributions you made to the marital estate during your marriage, including non-monetary contributions like taking time away from the workforce to raise children
- You and your spouse’s future earning potential
- Your family’s custody arrangement
By taking these factors into account, the court will determine the most fair way to divide your savings and your assets, including your house.
How does equitable distribution impact who gets the house?
If the court determines that your family house is marital property, there are still a few different potential outcomes.
Depending on your circumstances, you or your spouse may enter the next stage of your life as the sole owner of your home. However, this can be a costly endeavor. You will often need to buy out your spouse’s share of the home with a portion of your savings or by sacrificing another valuable asset, and this option will also include the cost of refinancing.
You and your spouse may continue as co-owners of the house. This can allow you time to save money to refinance the house, or it can allow your children to finish growing up in their childhood home. However, this also requires you and your spouse to determine how you will handle maintenance, repairs, property taxes and other concerns.
You may also choose to sell your home and divide the proceeds. While this can be the simplest financial decision, a sale can also take time. This may delay your divorce or force you to accept a less favorable offer in order to speed up the process.
In a divorce, you face a wide variety of decisions, including what happens to your family home. Working with an experienced attorney can be key to creating a legal strategy that protects the things that matter most.