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Friday, May 27, 2011

Decisions of Divorce: The Marital Home

One of the most emotional decisions made through divorce is what to do with the marital home.  There are many legal, financial and practical issues that must be considered and there are many others with advice or resources about the issue.  This is simply my story, not to be taken as direction for others.  My desire was to stay in the home we had shared.  I'm so thankful my former spouse was willing to work with me on this, as we both felt it was helpful for our children to keep that consistency.

As I child, my family moved many times and it seemed like I flowed seamlessly from one house to the next.  I had the security of my parents and the consistency of routines that allowed me to quickly pick up and move forward.  Still, I think it did affect me more than I thought because as an adult, the thought of moving is enough to create a bit of panic.  So the thought of trying to move while going through divorce magnified that response and I did not want my children to have to adjust to a new home either.  They were already facing big changes in their family, more overnight visits and packed bags than anyone should have to deal with.  My great desire was for them to have the consistency and predictability of home.  For a year now, I have managed to provide that.

According to our decree, I was able to stay in the marital home and would sell or refinance in 2011.  You see, my spouse is still named on the house, still liable should I not pay and still affected by the debt load in his ability to borrow.  Also, he will earn a portion of the proceeds upon sale of the home.  It is in his best interest for me to move.  I truly appreciate his cooperation in working with me to stay in the home as long as I have. 

So, 2011 is almost halfway through, and I still haven't decided what to do. This is not my "Dream House," but it is the home where so many of my dreams have come true.  So here is what I'm weighing right now:

The payment on the mortgage is at the very top of what is feasible.  Without child support, I would not be able to make ends meet.  Still, it is approximately the same amount that I would pay for a modern three bedroom apartment.  Unless we considerably lower our standard of living, I would prefer a stand-alone home with yard to living in an apartment complex.  But a rental or lease would be more fluid in commitment levels.  Other issues I'm considering -
  • I have paid the mortgage consistently for one year now, which demonstrates God's faithfulness.  Still, it sort of terrifies me to be the sole responsible party for such a large purchase.  If I refinanced now, though, I would have a paid-for home by the time I'm retirement age and a great interest rate.  I like that idea.
  • There is something about financing closing costs on a home I already own that rubs me the wrong way. Dislike.
  • I do not want to leave our school zone, which significantly lowers my options for rental properties or apartments.
  • There are future repairs to this home which are inevitable: Roof, fence, kitchen sink, carpet - all need updating.
  • I'm more confident that I and the children would adjust if we do decide to move.  Life is less uncertain and chaotic than a year ago and they are more secure in the new routines of daddy-days and such. 
  • Beacause I will need a new (to me) vehicle sometime in the not so distant future, it would be helpful to have the equity available from the sale of this home when that purchase becomes essential. 
I met with a realtor last night who gave me some feedback on what we might expect if we sold our home...and what needs to be done in order to make that a possibility (hello, fix the front door).  Some days I'm just sure the best thing to do would be to sell.  Other days I'm convinced staying is the best option by far. 

Among my friends who have experienced divorce, most choose to leave or sell the marital home.  They long to be free from the memories and obligations of the house.  The income from the sale of the home jump starts the financing for their new life.  The home represents so many things and those who choose to stay are often seeking that sense of consistency and that all has not been lost.  The desires are as unique as the individuals and so many factors weigh into the decision.

As I talk with our Lord about it and seek His wisdom, I'm more and more at peace with both options.  There really are pros and cons to each and it might be that I have freedom to choose between the two. 

As I have watched the disasters of this spring and the loss of homes so many have faced, I have been reminded and really come to believe that this place is not my home anyhow.  My home is the security I feel with Christ, the warmth I create for my children, the haven of peace we share in our crazy-making world.  These things can be taken with us wherever we lodge.

What does home mean to you?  Have you faced the decison of what to do with the marital home after divorce?  Any thoughts or advice for my and the decision I face? I love hearing from others out there!