How is ownership of the marital residence determined in a divorce?

UPDATED: Sep 29, 2010

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How is ownership of the marital residence determined in a divorce?

I have been living in this house 10 years and I hold the mortgage in my name. I am the one who pays for it. I have been married less than 5 years. Do Ihave to worry about losing my house or paying her anything involving my house if we divorce? We have no children.

Asked on September 29, 2010 under Family Law, Alabama


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

AL is an "equitable distribution" state. This means that marital assets will be divided equitably (not necessarily evenly). Typically, anything acquired from the date of the marriage through the date of separation is considered a marital asset and will be included in the "marital property".

However, "separate property" remains just that - separate.  Separate property can include property each spouse had before the marriage or acquired during the marriage by gift or inheritance.  In order to establish that something is separate property, it must have stayed within the exclusive ownership and control of the spouse claiming the separate property. 

If, however, separate property has been combined with joint property for the benefit of both spouses, it may be included as a marital asset. So for example, if your wife's income helped to pay for the mortgage and/or improvements to it, she may have a right to a portion of the house.  Also, depending on the circumstances, even if she did not contribute financially, she still may have a claim for any increase in value of the house during the marriage.

Without more details it's hard to say.  At this point, you should speak with a divorce attorney in your area.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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