This is the second part of my previous blog post, Part 1.
The suspense must be killing you…what did I do – buy, sell, rent or continue to live in the home?
Our final Separation Agreement, known in Massachusetts as the Judgement Absolute, stated that we were to sell the marital home by a date certain and that I would be able to use all the proceeds to buy a new home, essentially borrowing the money from my ex, and then once my daughter graduated, I would have to pay him back, five years later, whether or not I had sold my new home.
I didn’t really like that deal, but unfortunately, since there were so many other issues in our divorce, I had to pick my battles, so giving in on this was a compromise I needed to make.
I did my best to comply with the agreement. I started packing up 17 years of stuff, beginning with the wedding china and ordered a dumpster (the first of many) to empty out the basement. I continued working with my broker to look at other homes in the area, but I just couldn’t see myself being happy in any of them. Looking back now, it was just too soon to have to make a big change like that. I needed time. I needed to adjust to my new life, which had taken a toll on my emotional state. I was still mourning the loss of my ‘family’ and my lifestyle with that family. Yes, I had my girls, but in my mind, everything else was gone.
I Was in Contempt?
Although our agreement said, “the parties shall list and market the Marital Home for sale no later then March 1, 2009…”, my ex husband actually filed a contempt charge against me, because we didn’t put the house up for sale! I hate legalese.
It was time to take the bull by the horns and beg my ex-husband not to sell the home, but to continue to own it jointly until May 2012 – the infamous graduation date. After many arguments and yelling over the phone and crying and meeting with a mediator, he finally agreed to keep the home for the kids – yes, I played that card – I had no choice. But in reality, it was actually less expensive to stay in that house, compared to renting or even selling and buying something else. He knew that, plus, the price of homes in our price range was getting hit hard. If we had listed the house at that time, we probably would have taken a big hit on the sale price too. My ex-husband is a businessman first and foremost, so he knew that this was probably the right thing to do, given the tenuous economy.
I even negotiated for my ex to pay 50% of the PITI, on top of keeping the house. I paid for all the other expenses, but I argued that if we still owned the house jointly, then he needed to contribute to the cost of owning that house. Luckily, there was enough income to support the marital home and his own housing expenses. I know this isn’t always the case, so I was thankful.
Three dumpsters and many U-Haul packing boxes later, we sold the home in December 2013. Housing prices had stabilized so we ended up getting an okay price for the home, but it was still 23% lower than what we thought we could have sold it for before the recession hit.
Our girls were happy that they were able to stay in the home they grew up in for a few more years, because this whole thing was hard on them too. They too, suffered a huge loss which changed their lives forever, some good changes, some bad. One upside, much to my chagrin, was that because mom and dad were not around all the time, they took advantage of the situation and threw some pretty good parties in that house. Typical teenagers, but dumb ones too, because as soon as I walked in the house and saw the lousy job they did mopping the floor, I knew right away, they had thrown a party. Luckily, no harm done, no police, no complaining neighbors – so, I’m glad they got to experience a ritual that all high school kids want (deserve?) before we sold the house.
I’m glad I never considered buying out my husband, because over the next few years, I came to hate that house. I wanted out. It was filled with too many memories, it was too big to clean by myself (I couldn’t afford the house cleaner) and every time I got a bill in the mail, I would cringe.
I ended up buying a home before we even sold the Marital Home, and moved 50 miles away to the North Shore of Boston as soon as the school year ended. Perfect timing.
To those women who think they can’t be happy anywhere else, I say, “yes, you can. Home is where the heart is, remember?” You don’t need that house. What you need, is to make the right choices based on your financial situation and what is in the best interest of the family. Being financially strapped and living outside your means is not healthy for you or the kids, nor is it in anyone’s best interest.
I love my new home. Both my girls have their own room, now 22 and 24 and they love coming ‘home’ to me. I recently drove by the old house and felt nothing. I hope the family in there now is happy and enjoying the home I built.
You have options when it comes to the Marital Home. Take the time to think everything through and work with a divorce financial professional to see what option works best for you. Try to balance the emotions with the finances and most importantly, Be Informed!
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Every divorce is unique and laws and practices vary from state to state. Be sure to consult with your attorney, financial professional, accountant and other professionals in your state to understand what applies to you and what is best for you and your family. Taking information out of context generally has negative consequences. This article is not meant to provide legal or financial advice.