VICKIE LYNN COCHRAN attorney at law
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Who keeps the house when you divorce in middle age?

Divorce looks very different depending on how long you've been married and what kind of assets you and your spouse amassed during your time together. Whereas a young couple with few assets between them may not find it difficult to reach a fair property division agreement, a couple who divorces later in life, such as their 50s, probably faces a significantly different situation.

Many couples who divorce in middle age find that they have a number of assets to divide, but doing so equitably is not always simple. Furthermore, when couples have remained married for some time, one spouse is significantly more likely to face a spousal support order.

Here in the south, it is common for one member of the marriage, often a wife, to leave the workplace in the first several years of the marriage, especially if the couple chooses to have children. This may mean that asset division takes on an extra layer of complication.

Whatever your circumstances look like, you can probably benefit from the guidance of an experienced attorney who understands the specifics of property division in Arkansas. While many of the broad strokes of divorce remain the same from state to state, Arkansas also maintains a number of laws that significantly impact divorces. For instance, unlike most other states, Arkansas is a fault divorce state, which means couples must demonstrate a specific reason for divorcing.

Is your home your only major asset?

If you and your spouse choose to divorce in middle age, it is likely that you've begun building savings and investments for retirement or to leave to your children. However, this is not always the case. If your home is the only major asset you have between you, then determining who keeps it, if you keep it at all, is tricky.

Some spouses who invested years in homemaking may feel that they should obviously keep the home and let the primary earner get one's own place. Many couples choose to do it this way, especially if there are still children living in the home.

However, you must look at the overall cost of keeping the home. Is it paid for? Can you assume the mortgage on your own? Even if it is paid off, you still continue to generate property taxes and the home itself probably requires significant ongoing investment to maintain it. Before you make keeping the house the hill you die on, so to speak, be sure to take stock of exactly what the home requires to keep.

Do you have other assets that could benefit you significantly?

Few assets you may obtain in the course of a marriage regularly hold as much sentiment as a home. For this reason and others, some divorcing spouses feel a great pull to keep the home for emotional reasons even if it doesn't feel that way.

Before you prioritize keeping the home, be sure to examine all the assets up for division in your divorce. You may come out better on the other side if you choose to negotiate for a different set of assets.

Each couple's needs and priorities are unique, so be sure to get the help you need to fully understand the property division process, keeping your rights and needs protected along the way.

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