Unless you own a business or have substantial invested assets, your marital home is liable to be your biggest asset. This can lead to contentious arguments during the divorce process and threaten your ability to begin a new chapter in your life. When it comes time to divide up your marital property, it’s crucial to understand your rights under the law.
Marital Property vs. Separate Property
Indiana law makes a clear but not ironclad distinction between “marital property” and “separate property.” The former describes all jointly held assets that have been accrued during the course of a marriage. The latter describes separately owned property that’s held in trust for the duration of the marriage. It may also describe property that was the sole possession of one spouse prior to the marriage. By definition, the “marital home” is marital property. Both spouses typically appear on the home’s title and may make mortgage payments from “commingled” accounts.
By default, Indiana’s family courts generally divide marital property according to the principles of “fairness” and “equality.” Since only one ex-spouse may live in the marital home, this often leads to fractious debate over the residence’s fate.
However, there are circumstances in which these principles fall by the wayside. The ex-spouse who retains full or majority custody of the couple’s children has a much better chance of remaining in the house. Likewise, ex-spouses with lower earning power or few separate assets may earn the right to remain in the home. By contrast, an ex-spouse whose conduct was a direct cause of the marriage’s dissolution may find it difficult to argue for his or her continued ownership of the marital home.
How to Divide the Property?
In some cases, it may make more sense for neither spouse to retain ownership of the marital home. Parties to divorce often reach a compromise in which the funds from the marital home’s sale are divided between them on a “fair and equal” basis. This arrangement may be especially useful for childless couples who have no need for a larger home.
Compromise or Fight? An Indianapolis, IN Attorney Can Help You Choose
Surprisingly, many divorces lack the drama that you might expect from such high-stakes proceedings. If you’re inclined to compromise with your ex-spouse, you may be able to reach a workable agreement on the matter of your marital home. If you’re committed to fighting for what’s yours, you’ll need to leverage the full measure of your rights under the law. In either case, our experienced attorneys can provide the guidance you need. Call us at (317) 842-8283 or visit our family law practice page to learn more.