Family Law

What Happens to My House During a Divorce?

Houses are a huge pain in the butt during a divorce.

Property division in an Arkansas divorce is (Lord willing) a relatively simple problem. You just figure out what something is worth and then cut it in half. A house can make both of those tasks really tough.

What is a house worth? You can ask an Arkansas realtor, but that depends on whether he is buying or selling. Don’t ask Zillow, because you’ll think your house is actually worth twice what it really is. And don’t ask an appraiser because you’ll spend half your equity on getting an appraisal.

Side-note: If you’ve done some estate planning, make sure you’ve put your home into the trust. More about that here.

However, it doesn’t matter what your house is worth if no one wants to buy it.

Then there are the memories you have in a house. How much are your kids’ first steps worth? How much is your last Christmas with your grandfather worth? What about the family dog buried under the oak tree out back?

Even if you have no emotional ties to a home, it’s not a straightforward process to figure out what it’s worth. Once you factor in the memories, it’s nearly impossible.

If you have lived in your home for decades, you may be concerned about how to keep it if you or your spouse have to go to the nursing home. More about that here.

Assuming that you’ve got a value on it, it’s not too difficult to figure out the equity. But unfortunately, a house is not like a bank account. You can’t just carve up a home like you can a bank account. If you cut 7% off a home, you don’t have two pieces of property that add up to the total value of the home. Instead, you just have a big mess.

Getting the money out of a home (assuming there is equity) generally requires either: (1) that the parties sell the home, (2) one person has enough money to buy the other out, or (3) one person can do a cash-out refinance.

Each of these options requires a little luck and bunch of effort. Probably some money, too. Depending on the condition of your home and the area, selling it may be easy or impossible. Refinancing a home is not difficult, but it is expensive and you have to have good credit. Assuming that you purchased the home with your spouse’s income, it may be tough to refinance in your name alone.

A home is often the one aspect of a divorce that is not that difficult to agree on but is difficult to make happen. Usually, it is obvious who wants to keep the house (or, in some instances, obvious that neither party can keep the house.) It may simply be impossible.

If you own your home and anticipate or are going through a divorce, contact us. A good divorce lawyer can help you figure out how to divide your real estate. He will also have connections with competent realtors, mortgage lenders, and remodeling experts. It is especially something to think about if you are going through a divorce and have rental property.

About the Author
Charlie Cunningham

Charlie C. Cunningham


Born, raised, and educated entirely in Arkansas, Charlie is passionate about helping Arkansas families through the court system. As a DHS attorney throughout the State, Charlie has helped hundreds of children, parents, and adults achieve positive outcomes through appropriate DHS agencies and services. Charlie understands the seriousness of any legal proceeding that involves someone’s child or loved one, and his…

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