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Maricopa County Family Law Blog

Deciding what to do with the marital home during a divorce

One of the toughest conversations Arizona couples have to have when they go through a divorce has to do with what will happen to the family home. Besides the fact that it is likely one of their largest assets, there are emotions and memories connected to the home. There are three options that most couples have available to them when they are in this situation.

One option is to sell the home and then divide the proceeds. In many ways, this is the cleanest and easiest route to take. Some of the considerations couples will have to make include understanding they will be subject to capital gains taxes if they make money on the sale and being sure their finances and credit are stable enough to find new living spaces.

When should you tell your kids about your divorce?

Divorce can be hard on everyone in the family, but it can be especially hard on kids. As a parent, you may hesitate to tell your children about your divorce because you do not want to cause them pain. However, it is often better to tell kids about divorce sooner rather than later.

If you are sure your divorce is happening, it may already be the right time to tell your children about it. It may also be time to tell your kids if, in the next month or two, you or your spouse plan to move out of the marital home or your custody agreement will go into effect.

How to make sure your kid goes to the right parent after school

The first few months of the school year can be hard for parents that divorced within the last few months. Not only do you not spend as much time with your child as you did in the summer, but you also might have a new custody schedule to deal with. The time the child spends with their respective parents during the school year is often drastically different for many Arizona families.

Unfortunately, a new time of the year can bring new problems. The school year is much more difficult to plan for since your kid can get involved in sports, extracurricular activities or even go to a friend's house to hang out after school. Your ex may also struggle to adjusting to the new schedule as well, or they could use the confusion you and your child may experience to their advantage. To avoid losing more time with your kid and getting into potential custody disputes, you need to speak to the following people:

Handling a house buyout in a divorce

When divorcing couples enter into property division negotiations, the marital home is usually the most valuable asset discussed. The community property laws in Arizona require marital assets to be divided equally, which means establishing an agreed-upon value for the primary residence is extremely important. This is usually done by qualified real estate appraisers, but it is often a difficult process.

Appraisers usually inspect the home in question and then check recent transactions in the area to find out how much similar properties have sold for. Divorcing spouses often appoint an appraiser each, and a third appraisal may be required if their valuations are not in alignment. Once a property value has been agreed on, the spouses must decide whether or not to sell the marital home and divide the proceeds. If one spouse wishes to remain in the home, negotiations become more complex and potentially more contentious.

What is community property?

If you are preparing for divorce, you may have heard that Arizona is a community property state. It may not be immediately obvious what that means. However, it could affect your divorce outcomes.

Part of the divorce process involves evaluating assets and debts. Those assets and debts must then be divided between you and your spouse. In the United States, there are two ways that assets and debts can be divided in divorce. Understanding the way they are divided in Arizona can help you better prepare for this process.

A split doesn't have to cause havoc on credit

When Arizona residents decide to seek a divorce, there are many areas of concern in how to build a new life. Finances, including credit score, are of great importance since they can determine quality of life after the divorce. There are steps that can be taken before the divorce decree is final that can protect that score and finances overall.

The road to divorce starts much earlier than the actual division of assets, negotiations and court dates. Protection of finances and credit score should start early. Joint credit cards, mortgages and loans can hurt individuals' finances after the divorce, so couples should start working toward splitting those up before the finalized divorce. One way is to open an individual credit card with a limit that can be easily paid off by one person before paying off and closing the joint accounts. Another is by removing an authorized or joint user on the account and assuming the responsibilities and liabilities for that card. Cards can also be put into inactive status, preventing any future charges as they are paid off.

Assuming a mortgage isn't always possible

Arizona couples tend to have a few significant assets such as a retirement or bank account that will need to be divided in their divorces. In addition, a couple could own a home that has significant equity that must be split. In some cases, the home will be liquidated with each person sharing a portion of that equity. In others, one person will gain control of the home while the other receives other assets in return.

Whoever gains control of the home may have the option of refinancing the current mortgage. This gets the other spouse off of the loan and may also make it possible to cash out equity in the property. If this is not possible, a divorcing couple could choose to keep the current mortgage in place. Depending on when the mortgage was issued, an individual may assume the loan and put it in his or her name.

How older adults can prepare for divorce

Couples in Maricopa County who have been married for decades might be more likely to get a divorce than younger couples who have only been together for a few years. Divorce is on the rise for people who are 55 and older, and for people 65 and older, the divorce rate is more than two times higher than it was in 1990. These marriages may be ending in part because of a shift toward the idea that divorce is more acceptable, particularly as people are living longer lives.

However, it is important at this time that both individuals take steps to protect their finances. For example, calculating income for the purposes of alimony may be more complex as people advance in their careers because they may also acquire stock options, travel benefits, executive compensation packages and more that need to be included. For the purposes of property division, in a community property state like Arizona, most assets acquired after marriage are considered to be shared property that should be equally divided in a divorce.

Women initiate divorce far more often than men

No Arizona spouse enters into marriage consciously thinking about divorce. However, it's likely resonating somewhere in their collective subconscious. For years, the conventional wisdom has been that about half of marriages are ultimately doomed to fail, and many studies tend to generally support that supposition. That being the case, many may also expect the initiation of divorce to be a 50/50 proposition, but this is not backed by the statistics. In fact, wives begin dissolution proceedings far more often than husbands.

Studies by various social researchers have revealed that women are at least twice as likely as men to start the divorce ball rolling. Wives who have a college education initiate divorce 90% of the time. The numbers may vary, but the conclusion is unequivocal; a woman is far more apt to reach a point of no return in a marriage than a man. The researchers also postulated several reasons why this seeming imbalance is true.

Protecting financial health during a divorce

When Maricopa County couples decide to end their marriage, finances are often a significant concern. Even when a couple is relatively financially stable, divorcing can create a shortfall that can be difficult to recover from. Many experts believe that careful planning before, during and after the divorce can minimize the negative impact that the end of a marriage can have on the financial health of both parties.

Each spouse should begin working on a post-divorce budget as soon as possible. This budget can help them to understand what they can expect financially, at least for the first year or two after the split. The budget should also reflect the cost of the divorce itself, including lawyer and court fees. In addition, divorces often involve one or both parties moving out of the couple's home, so the cost of relocation, including moving services and security deposits, should be considered.

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