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After child custody, property division is usually the biggest concern for divorcing couples. Who should leave the house during the separation period and who ultimately retains ownership of the family home?

When determining where to live after a divorce, consider these factors to reach an agreement on dividing real estate fairly.

The home’s current value

 If you have not had a recent home appraisal, establish the value of your home before making any decisions. Then, subtract the mortgage amount from the current value to determine the equity in the home. If you owe $50,000 on a property worth $200,000, the home is worth about $150,000 for the purposes of equitable property division.

Agreeing on a buyout

 A spouse who wants to stay in the home can buy out the equity of the other spouse if he or she agrees. In the example above, the spouse staying in the home would possess $150,000 in equity, so he or she would pay $75,000 to the spouse moving out for his or her share.

This arrangement requires the person staying in the home to refinance the mortgage in his or her own name. In this scenario, you may be able to borrow a portion of the equity to buy out your former spouse.

Often, couples with children decide that the parent with primary physical custody retains the family home. Other times, one partner prefers to move closer to his or her family, work and other support systems.

Selling the home

 If the maintenance, taxes and other costs associated with the home are too much for one person’s income, the spouses can agree to sell the home and split the proceeds. Often, this arrangement provides each person with the funds to establish a separate household, especially if neither particularly wants to retain the current property.

View the decision about the house as part of the entire property division agreement in the divorce settlement. Because Pennsylvania is an equitable division state, divorcing spouses must fairly split all marital assets and debts.