Your house is important to you. It’s where your kids grew up, where you made memories, and quite possibly the single most valuable thing you own. But when your marriage breaks down, one spouse at least will need to find a new place to call home. This could make you wonder whether your spouse can make you sell the house during a Michigan divorce.
The Marital Home and Property Division
Michigan law says that when spouses get divorced, each spouse is entitled to an “equitable division” of the marital property. This doesn’t need to be exactly 50/50. However, it does divide up everything either party has acquired since the marriage into fairly even portions (unless fault is a factor). Your divorce attorney may use a spreadsheet to make sure your proposed resolution isn’t unfairly weighted in one direction.
Your house is one of the highest-value things you own. But when it comes to divorce, it is still just another piece of marital property. If you and your spouse sunk most of your assets into buying a home, that can create problems when negotiating or advocating for an equitable division because the equity of the home will be entirely on one side of the spreadsheet. If you don’t want to sell the house, you will need to make sacrifices in other areas to come to a fair distribution of your property as a whole.
Should I Keep or Sell the House? How to Decide
Deciding whether to sell the house can be difficult, emotionally and financially. Here are several factors to consider:
- How much net equity is in the house? (Fair market value minus mortgage balance)
- Can you afford the monthly mortgage and utility payments on one income?
- Is there child support or spousal support available to cover the difference?
- Are there alternative housing options available near your work, your kids’ schools, etc.?
- Do you have retirement assets, savings, or investments to offset the equity?
- Can you obtain financing on your own to buy out your spouse’s share?
- What is the market like? Will it be easy or hard to sell the house?
- Will living in the home you shared make it harder to heal from the divorce?
Will My Kids Have to Give Up Their Home?
Many custodial parents don’t want to make their kids move because of the divorce. You may want to make sure they can stay in the same school and close to their friends. Custody of the children is not one of the listed factors that Michigan divorce judges consider in awarding property, unlike in some other states. However, judges can consider the “past conduct of the parties.” Your divorce attorney could use this factor to address your past conduct as a stay-at-home parent or primary custodian to build an argument against selling your home.
Can My Spouse Make Me Sell the House?
When negotiations fail, you may feel pressured into selling the house. If you decide to go to trial over property division, it puts this decision in the hands of the judge. After trial, the judge can order the parties to sell the house and split the net equity.
Even post-judgment, your spouse may be able to file a motion to make you sell the house if:
- You fall behind on the mortgage payments (affecting your spouse’s credit)
- You are unable to refinance the property to remove your spouse’s name
To avoid these motions, be sure to consider the practical aspects of keeping the property before you decide not to sell the house. You may even want to get pre-approved for refinancing while the divorce is pending to avoid delays or surprises after the divorce is final.
At Thacker Sleight, our experienced family law attorneys can help you decide whether to sell the house and advocate for you to keep it. We work with our clients and experts, including real estate agents and appraisers, to accurately determine the value of the house and consider available financing. We provide our clients exclusive, highly professional service, advocating on their behalf against spouses who want to make them sell the house. If you need help with your divorce, contact us at 616.888.3810 to schedule a consultation. We will be there with and for you every step of the way.