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House sometimes a hot potato for divorcing Boston couples

Over the past several years, many Boston residents' assumptions about owning a house and taking on a mortgage have been turned upside down. This fact can further complicate property division during a divorce. Past arguments typically focused on who would keep the house, while now the discussion often revolves around who will deal with the burden of home debt.

Even in good economic climates, deciding if one should keep the house in a divorce proceeding is a complicated issue. In addition to the uncertain national economy, factors such as sentimental value, future family plans and personal financial situation play into the decision regarding home ownership following a divorce.

The tragic tale of a divorcee who cashed out a retirement plan to retain the former family home, only to see the house plummet in value, is far too common. Like divorce itself, home valuation is a tricky enterprise, and lessons of recent years have taught people facing divorce to approach this question with caution. Similar to purchasing a house, deciding whether or not to keep it after a divorce is a major financial decision.

If one can afford mortgage payments and upkeep, keeping the house may be an option. Divorcees should also consider the other assets to be assigned in the property division proceedings to better ensure an amicable conclusion to the proceedings, if possible, as people may fight more vigorously for the house if there is nothing else to divide.

As with other realities of a divorce, circumstances beyond the financial can influence the decision of who retains the house as well. For example, a parent who does the majority of the child-rearing will often end up keeping the house. Similarly, a spouse who purchased the house with separate funds often has a strong claim for ownership.

The current quandaries of home ownership in Boston can throw a monkey wrench into the process of divorce. A legal professional can help to ensure that divorcing spouses are making well-informed decisions about the house and other issues during property division.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Keeping The House After Divorce," Kathleen B. Connell, Feb. 20, 2013

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