Janet L. Goehle, Attorney at Law
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Understanding mortgages and divorce

The house is one of the biggest assets a couple has. When the marriage ends, so does the joint ownership of the residence. Unless spouses can agree amicably about who gets to keep the home and who is responsible for the mortgage, things can become complicated. The Minnesota Judicial Branch states that all assets, including real estate, must be divided between spouses fairly. Joint mortgages must become individual mortgages and individual mortgages may switch owners.

In the event that the marital home was purchased before the marriage began, the spouse who took out the loan may automatically get to keep it in the divorce, since it would be considered non-marital property. However, if any of the marital income was used to pay the mortgage and to make improvements to the house, the courts will probably consider how much of that property belongs to the owner and how much of it belongs to the ex-spouse. Any money that was used towards the improvement and purchase of the home that was the sole contribution of the owner will be evaluated in conjunction with any money that was contributed by the ex-spouse during the course of the marriage.

According to The Law Dictionary, the individual income of each spouse can affect a joint mortgage in a divorce decree. Spouses who have a significantly lower income than their former spouse can receive their share of the home’s equity from the higher-earning spouse and may lose their right to ownership and residency inside of the home, even if there are children. However, there are other factors that can affect the outcome of homeownership after a divorce.

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