Keeping Your Home in MT DivorceMarybeth Sampsel
For many divorcing couples in Montana, their home is their most valuable asset. In a divorce, this makes it extremely important what happens to the property, how the mortgage is dealt with, and who continues to live in the home. Often, in an effort to encourage consistency for the children, whichever parent will be doing the majority of the parenting will have a preference in staying in the home.
If you own your home free and clear – congratulations. That is a major accomplishment. It also means that there is no debt to accompany the home. Often, Montana judges will require that whoever is awarded a piece of property in a divorce also take the corresponding debt. So if your home has a mortgage on it, whoever keeps the house would also be responsible for the mortgage. If there is no debt, obviously that is a great thing, but it means the asset of the home will need to be offset in other ways.
If there is other property in the marriage, often that can be awarded to the other spouse in order to create an equitable distribution. It also may be necessary that the spouse who takes the house also take some other debt in order to offset the high value of the home.
Also, a word of warning about mortgages. Although a divorce decree (and the property settlement agreement that goes along with it) may assign a debt to your spouse, this does not absolve you of that debt with the lending company. Usually, we attempt to have the spouse who acquires the debt refinance it as quickly as possible in only their name in order to relieve their ex of liability. In cases where this is not possible, it can create a sticky and unfortunate situation.