Who pays for a mortgage in a divorce?

Written by michael wolfe
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One of the most painful parts of divorce can be the division of property and debts. While in some cases this division is amicable, in others it can be quite contentious. Negotiating the payment of a mortgage can be difficult, as it combines both a property--the residence--and a debt--the mortgage. The person who pays will differ depending on the settlement.


Settlements for divorces can vary enormously. In many cases, the breadwinning half of the partnership will be required to provide half his assets to his wife. In other cases, however, the couple may work out another arrangement in which the other partner takes more or less than this amount. Responsibility for the mortgage, as well as residence in the house, will be settled through these negotiations.


During the divorce proceedings, the responsibility of the mortgage is assigned to whoever has been already paying for the mortgage, even if their name is not on the note. Even if the party is not currently occupying the house, the person is still obligated to continue payments. According to the legal reference website Woman's Divorce, even before the divorce has been settled, the breadwinning half can be compelled by a court order to continue payments.


If a mortgage is partially paid down, the equity invested in the home is considered an asset, one that must be part of the number of assets divided between the two parties. While this asset cannot be literally split without selling the house--though some divorced parties do choose to sell the house as part of the settlement--the party who receives it in a 50-50 settlement must relinquish property of equal worth.


No matter the financial settlement arranged, it is the person whose name is on the mortgage that will have their credit report affected by the payments of the debt. For example, the wife in a divorce may receive custody of the house, with her former husband ordered to pay the mortgage, which is in her name. If the husband fails to make payments, her credit will be negatively affected, regardless of the husband's legal obligation.


In a situation in which one partner is ordered to continue to make payments on the mortgage for a residence occupied by the other partner, the mortgage should be placed in the paying partner's name or refinanced under their name. This will provide an incentive for the paying partner to make timely payments, so as to prevent damage to his credit rating.

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