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What Happens to the House in a Divorce?

When It Comes to the Family Home, You May Have More Options Than You Realize

When a couple is divorcing, one of their most immediate concerns is often “what happens to our home?” Divorce is difficult enough, and the thought of being displaced from your family home can be overwhelming and scary. You and your former partner may also have different ideas about what should be done with it, or you may both want the house.

Typically, couples own homes together, making the home a shared asset. This means that it needs to be addressed during the property division process. Property division is one of the hardest parts of the divorce process, and determining what to do with the family home is often a point of contention.

Equitable Division of Property

In Iowa, property division is guided by the concept of equitable distribution. However, fair doesn’t always mean 50/50. Instead, when the courts make property division determinations, they consider many factors. Additionally, Iowa is a no-fault state, so misconduct is not considered when making property division decisions.

When dividing property, the courts consider:

  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age and health of both parties
  • The needs of each party
  • Income and earning potential of each person
  • The financial circumstances of each person
  • Any existing marital agreements
  • Contributions made to the marriage by either party
  • Contributions made to the education, training, or career of either party
  • Existing custody arrangements
  • Existing spousal or child support agreements

While Iowa is not a community property state, if it is determined that your home is marital property, it will be subject to property division.

Buying the Other Person Out

A couple’s home is often their largest asset. Because of your home’s high value, it can be challenging to deal with during a divorce. One option is for the person who wants to keep the house to buy the other party out of their share in the home. Typically, a buy out involves assessing the property and paying the other party half of its current market value. Doing so will transfer the property solely into the ownership of the person doing the buyout.

Buying out the other party is not always possible. It involves the ability to come up with the ready money to make the buyout happen. Additionally, if both parties want the house and can’t come to an agreement, a buyout won’t be an option.


A common solution to dealing with a shared home during a divorce is to sell the property. If the divorcing parties cannot agree, or neither want to live in the home or cannot afford the house on their own, they may decide to sell it. After the home is sold, any mortgages or equity lines, broker’s fees, taxes, etc. must be paid. After this is done, the divorcing parties will be able to divide any remaining proceeds according to their property division agreement.

Selling the family home is often attractive to former couples seeking a fresh start and looking to avoid unhappy memories. Similarly, when starting over after a divorce, having mortgages paid off and extra cash in hand is attractive to many people going through a divorce. However, if you are sentimentally attached to your home, or you are worried about displacing your children, this may not be an ideal solution.

Getting Creative with Property Division

If buying out your former partner or selling the home aren’t good options for you, you and your attorney may be able to come up with another option. For example, if you have multiple properties, you and your former partner may agree to each take one instead of selling them. Alternatively, if one party wants to keep the house, the other party may consider taking the couple’s other large assets. Similarly, if both parties agree, one spouse may be allowed to live in the home while raising children or for a certain period, after which the house will be sold, or the other party has the option to buy out their former partner at that time.

Determining what is to be done with your family home during a divorce is tough. However, working with a skilled lawyer can make a big difference. Whether you are working out a property division settlement in or out of court, you need an attorney representing your best interests. The attorneys at Hope Law Firm have handled thousands of property division cases, and we are prepared to use our experience to help you. Contact us online to discuss your case.