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Divorcing with multiple real estate holdings

Divorce is rarely a simple matter, but the more complex a couple's assets, the more opportunities there exist for conflict to arise, especially in the property division portion of the divorce process.

We've all witnessed or experienced divorces near to us where the process ran off the rails and got unnecessarily messy for everyone involved. The good news is that this doesn't have to be the case with your divorce. Even if you have complex assets, you can keep your divorce civil with professional guidance from an experienced attorney who understands the nuances of complex asset division.

One kind of asset division that requires very specific attention is when a couple who divorces owns multiple pieces of real estate. In most divorce scenarios, a couple only owns one home, and this creates plenty of opportunity for conflict in its own right.

If you and your spouse face the prospect of asset division including multiple pieces of real estate, you should proceed very carefully to ensure that you achieve a truly fair division while keeping your rights and priorities protected during and after your divorce.

Do you own the properties outright?

One of the things that makes real estate such a complex asset is the unavoidable costs of owning it in most cases. Unlike owning relatively hands-free assets like traditional investments, a home generally requires mortgage financing in addition to the taxes and maintenance costs it incurs.

If you own multiple properties but still owe a balance on the mortgage, then you have some very important ground to cover. Before reaching a fair division of assets that will actually work for both spouses, you must determine if a particular piece of property that one spouse or the other wishes to keep is, in fact, "keepable."

If, for instance, a husband and wife own two homes, one in which they lived and a second they used as a rental income property, it might seem obvious to simply hand one property to the husband and one to the wife and be done with it. In an ideal scenario, this is possible, but not always.

Should one or both of the properties still carry mortgages, the individual who keeps a mortgaged property must be able to carry the mortgage on his or her sole income. Otherwise, a lender may not approve the individual for a refinance to place the mortgage solely in his or her name.

Are the properties of reasonably equal value?

It is unlikely that two pieces of real estate would have exactly the same value or incur exactly the same taxes and maintenance costs. As you decide how to allot property, be sure you understand, in detail, the burdens that owning a property after divorce place on the spouse who receives it.

These matters deserve careful consideration to ensure that your divorce remains fair and professional. It is always wise to approach any divorce, especially one involving complex assets, with sufficient legal counsel from an experienced attorney.