There are numerous ways that someone can lose their house in a divorce, with the most common reason being that the house must be sold in order to divide the couple’s marital property equitably. Losing a home in divorce is a difficult experience to endure, and figuring out what to do and where to go afterward can be confusing. Here are some things you can do to get your life back on track.
Focus on Yourself
Among the first steps to focusing on yourself after divorce is to update all your important documents to reflect the separation, including your estate plan, power of attorney, and health care directive. Making sure your former spouse is correctly listed or removed from these documents will help solidify the divorce in your mind and could help you begin to move on.
If your divorce was full of conflict, you may need to take further steps:
- File a restraining order. This may seem like an overreaction, but if a former spouse inserts themself into your life after the divorce, and you no longer want them in your life, there’s no shame in getting a restraining order.
- Request enforcement of the divorce decree. If a former spouse is not adhering to the terms of the divorce, you are well within your rights to file a request for enforcement of the divorce decree. The local court clerk can help you understand what forms and steps are necessary to proceed with this filing.
- Consider changing your last name. If you altered your last name, or took your partner’s last name, it can be an incessant reminder of the marriage and divorce. A request for a name change after a divorce can take a while, so the sooner the request is made, the better.
- Establish a garnishment. If you were granted spousal support or alimony, and you worry that your former partner will not consistently pay what the courts deem you are owed, then ask the state for help establishing a wage-withholding order through payroll deduction. This removes the opportunity for your former partner to refuse to pay you. Your right to request wage garnishment comes from the Code of Federal Regulations Title 5, Chapter 1, Subchapter B, Part 581.
Look for a Home of Your Own
When you’re looking for a new home following a divorce, there are two primary options—renting and buying. Immediately following your divorce, it is likely a better option to rent a home for the short term. This will give you time to adjust to your new cash flow and the expenses of living on your own, which will make it easier for you to plan the next steps you want to take in your life. However, with the rising costs of rent, it is actually considered a better financial move to buy a home in some areas of the country.
If you decide that renting is not for you, or if you’ve been renting and are ready to purchase your own home, it’s time to consider the size of the loan you can afford. Some options, such as loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, are ideal for individuals with current or past financial difficulties. In addition, because these types of loans are backed by the federal government, they can come with unique benefits. A recent example is the mortgage forbearance program introduced by the CARES Act, which ensures there are no penalties for borrowers of government-backed home loans who request forbearance due to financial stress caused by the pandemic.
Focusing on yourself legally and mentally is the best thing you can do for yourself following a divorce, especially if you lose your house and feel adrift in your new single life. Losing the marital home doesn’t mean your life is over. Once you grow comfortable with your new living situation, you’ll be able to focus on your goals and continue to find your path in life.