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How to handle the primary residence in a California divorce

Negotiations over property division sometimes become heated in California divorce cases due to the state's community property laws, and this can be especially true if one of the parties wishes to remain in the family home while the other wants to sell. The emotional ties that couples form with the houses in which they have raised a family can add an additional layer of complexity to these talks, and a diplomatic approach may be advisable for people who hope for a speedy settlement agreement.

Placing the property concerned on the market and then dividing the proceeds once it is sold may be the simplest option, but dealing with picky buyers and aggressive real estate brokers can place additional strain on an already stressful situation. Spouses should also be aware that selling a house can lead to higher tax bills. Unlike mortgage payments, rent is generally not deductible, and the home sale tax exclusion may not be enough to cover the profit generated in some of California's more expensive areas.

If one spouse is adamant about remaining in the family home and wishes to buy the other spouse out, it may be wise to refinance any outstanding mortgages or home equity loans. This is because banks will pursue any individual who signed loan papers when payments are not being made, and divorce settlements are unlikely to deter them. A new loan may be required in any case to provide the funds needed to complete the buyout.

Experienced family law attorneys may advise their divorce clients to think carefully before electing to remain in their primary residence. Decisions based on emotions are often regretted later, and the costs of maintaining and running a large house can be difficult to meet on a fixed income. In these situations, attorneys may seek higher alimony awards to help with these costs.

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