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The home can be a contentious item in property division

Divorce can be an emotionally tumultuous process for many people in California. While most people understand that it is best to leave emotions out of decision making, doing so might not always be easy. This can be especially true during property division, when deciding what to do with the family home becomes a point of contention.

Home mortgages tend to be one of the largest assets shared by married couples, making it difficult enough to approach without the emotions that often come tangled with it. Primary caregivers of children might want to keep a home in order to provide continuity for the kids, while high-earners might feel as if they have earned the right to keep the home. Regardless of these feelings, the financial impact of a mortgage cannot be separated from actually deciding what to do with it.

There are typically two approaches to a shared mortgage -- have one spouse refinance by themselves, or sell the home and split any remaining money. In most cases, selling the home tends to be the all-around easiest option. However, for those who have strong emotional ties to the house or who are particularly interested in its location for affordability or other perks, refinancing is the way to go. This is not always the easiest, as the person hoping to retain ownership of the home must be able to refinance with only his or her own income. A mortgage that once was qualified with a dual income might become unrealistic with just a single pay check.

California couples will generally experience different emotional ups and downs regarding divorce, but homes tend to be a common theme. Whether the contentious item in property division is a home or other significant asset, care and consideration should be given to the process. Since not all couples are able to come to a mutually agreeable divorce settlement on their own, it is sometimes necessary to proceed to court, where a judge will have the final say over the division of marital assets and legal assistance is beneficial.

Source: TIME, "What Happens to Your Mortgage in a Divorce?", Ashley Eneriz, March 29, 2016

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