Getting Divorced: What Should We Do With the House?

Feb 23, 2011

Perhaps the most common property division issue in divorce matters is “what do we do with the house?”

The marital home is a big issue for several reasons.  The house is often the largest asset that a couple owns.  Cash flow issues frequently create the need for more cash, creating a need to liquidate the equity in the house.  One spouse may be emotionally tied to the home for sentimental reasons.  The parents may want to keep the house for the sake of the children.  

Suffice it to say, there are often many issues at play when making decisions about the family home. 

That being said, most couples’ decisions regarding their home fall into one of the following options:

1. Selling the house

This is frequently done when a couple cannot afford to maintain the marital home as well as a second home for a spouse that moves out.   It also works for couples that no longer need a large home.  This is also the only option if neither the husband nor the wife wants to keep the home.

2. One party keeps the house. 

This may work when one of the spouses wants to keep the house, and the other spouse does not.   This is also common when the parties feel that is important to keep the children in the house for continuity.   Frequently one spouse “buys out” the other’s interest in the home.

  3. One party stays in the house for some period of time, then the house is sold.

This works for a lot of couples that need to buy time.  The couple has to then determine how the expenses of the home will be paid until the home is sold.

  4. The parties keep the home, but rent it to a third party.

This option is less popular, as most clients prefer to simply sell the house if neither wants to live there.  And, finding renters can be a challenge. However, in the days of declining equity, this option may allow the couple to avoid a loss on the sale of a home until the market turns around.

  5. Nesting

Nesting occurs when the parties keep the home and alternate time in the home.  This is an option when the couple puts a high priority on keeping the kids in the home.  The parents have to figure out where they will live on their “off” days, which sometimes requires keeping up three homes instead of just two. 


The marital home is often a central issue in a divorce negotiation.  There are many possible ways to address the house.  The important thing is that the couple finds the solution that works for them and their family.  In a collaborative divorce, the parties have the time, space, safety and advice to do just that.


Randolph (Tré) Morgan III is an experienced family law attorney accepting cases in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Clayton, Smithfield, Wake Forest, RTP, Durham, Chapel Hill, Holly Springs and surrounding areas.  He focuses his practice in divorce, child custody, alimony, child support, equitable distribution, property division, paternity, guardianship and other family related matters.  

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