Yes. If you and your husband both decide that the family home should stay in his possession, then he will be able to sell or remodel the house in the future without your approval. Of course, if you wish to give up possession of the home, but not your legal rights to it, this can be done during divorce negotiation.

Let’s say that your husband is keeping the home because it is closer to Ballard High School and is more convenient for the children. However, the house belonged to a former member of your family, and you do not want to let it out of your possession permanently. In this case, you should make sure that you preserve your legal rights to the property in the final Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA).

Here are a few things you should consider while drafting your MSA:

  • Exclusive possession. Generally speaking, whoever takes possession of the house will usually expect exclusive decision-making power as to who lives there and what is done to the building and land. However, they may relinquish some control if both partners continue to pay the mortgage, taxes, or insurance on the property.
  • Joint ownership. If you and your husband both want to retain some ownership of the house, your MSA should clearly outline who is responsible for maintenance, cleaning, landscaping, and general upkeep of the property. If a tree limb falls in the back yard and damages the pool, who will pay for repairs? If your windows need to be replaced will you split the cost evenly, or will the “tenant” spouse pay more? 
  • Financial implications. While you and your spouse may split the property, only one of you will be able to claim its tax benefits, such as the mortgage interest rate deduction. Consider the future: will your children inherit the home, or will it be sold when they are grown? If the property is sold, how will the proceeds be divided? You should also make provisions for what will happen to the home if one of you dies, such as buying extra life insurance to cover the costs of the property.

Do you have questions about the financial aspects of your divorce? Fill out the consult link on this page for answers, or read our free Washington women's divorce guide.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington