It’s an understatement to say that divorce complicates things. Not only can it take an emotional toll, but a financial one too. With everything going on, you also may have to find a new place to live. But how do you buy a house if you’re married but separated? Here’s a breakdown of whether you can buy a house while in the divorce process and the steps you must take to do it.
A financial advisor can help you create a financial plan to buy a home while getting a divorce.
Can You Buy a House While Getting Divorced?
Yes, you can buy a house while getting divorced. However, there are certain legal and financial hurdles you may face. For instance, you may have a hard time getting a mortgage if you share a large amount of debt with your spouse. Also, you may have more challenges, such as having to have your spouse sign a quitclaim deed.
5 Steps of Buying a House While Getting a Divorce
Buying a home can already be a complex process, especially if you’re selling your home simultaneously. There are five common steps you should consider if you’re thinking about buying a house while married but separated:
Talk to your attorney. Divorce and marriage law is extremely state-specific. When it comes to defining legal separation, every jurisdiction has a different definition. The first step you should take is talking to a divorce lawyer. They will be able to advise you on ways to keep any house you buy separate from divorce proceedings.
Purchasing a home while married but separated is complicated. Having a knowledgeable divorce attorney on your side can keep your new house from being a contested property.
See if you live in a community property state. If you live in a community property state, you may need to cooperate with your spouse regarding your new house. Otherwise, under state law, your spouse would have ownership of the new house.
Currently, there are nine community property states:
- New Mexico
If you live in one of these states, you may need court approval to purchase a new house, especially with marital assets. Also, in these states, your spouse’s debt is your debt. This can negatively impact your debt-to-income ratio, which can make it more difficult to get a mortgage, and even harder to get a mortgage with a good interest rate.
Getting your spouse to sign a quitclaim deed. Even if you don’t live in a community property state, you want to it to be clear to the courts who owns what. That’s where a quitclaim deed comes in. Put simply, a quitclaim deed is a document that transfers ownership of a property.
You need the compliance of your spouse when buying a house while married but separated. To establish clear ownership, you will need them to sign a quitclaim deed for your new house, outlining that they transfer all interest to you.
If they won’t cooperate, you can run into a lot of trouble if you go ahead and buy the home. A judge could rule that your new home is half your spouse’s. While ultimately it’s your choice, if your spouse won’t sign a quitclaim deed, you may be better off waiting to buy the home until the divorce is finalized.
Plan for your purchase. Along with buying a house while married but separated, you still face the regular complexities of buying a home. That means you need to save for a down payment, have a solid credit score and pay down debt. Make sure to save your down payment in your own individual account, not a joint account. Remember, you’ll get a better interest rate on your mortgage with a higher down payment and credit score.
Before you start shopping, a good first step is to estimate how much you can afford. Using the SmartAsset mortgage calculator, you can get a good idea of how much your mortgage payment will be every month. For example, let’s say you buy a home for $250,000 and can put $10,000 down. You take out a $240,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 6.6%. While estimating for taxes, insurance and other fees, this puts your monthly payment at $2,111.
Find a real estate agent and a lender. Once you have your credit score in a good spot and a sizable down payment, start looking for a real estate agent. Finding an experienced agent is invaluable. Look for one who understands your situation and the house you’re looking for.
As for lenders, it can pay to shop around. Check out our list of today’s best mortgage rates to familiarize yourself with what lenders are offering. Pay attention to additional fees and mortgage points. Remember that a super low rate can mean you paying more cash at the closing table.
Should You Buy a House When Married but Separated?
Buying a home before your divorce is finalized is risky. There are two main risks to consider. First, the court may see the home as marital property, especially if it’s bought with funds from a joint account. Regardless of whether you’re in a community property state, you’re running the risk of giving your soon-to-be-ex-spouse an ownership stake in your new home.
Second, divorce can be expensive. That’s especially true if it’s highly contested and there are large lawyer fees involved. If you buy a house before the divorce is finalized, you could be risking the ability to pay for your new house.
Before considering buying a house while married but separated, talk to a divorce lawyer. The last thing you want to do is make a large financial decision that can complicate an already complicated event. Waiting to buy until your divorce is finalized will help you avoid the major risk of having your new home become marital property.
Financial Tips for Divorce
- A financial advisor can help you create a financial plan for your needs and goals during and after divorce. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- If you’re separated or going through a divorce, it may be a good item to open a new bank account. SmartAsset’s list of best banks can get you started on the right foot. Keep an eye out especially for banks with no fees and high APYs to grow your savings.
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