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What to do with jointly-held real estate after a breakup

Buying a home together is often an act that solidifies a relationship in a special way. You may feel that you are putting down roots or establishing a future with your partner. Legally, however, you are taking on the mutual obligation to pay a mortgage and the shared responsibility to maintain the property. Because you enter these agreements together, you must break them together, too.

When your relationship doesn't work out, you will still have the ownership of the house and all its commitments between you. Making decisions about what to do with the house is often a challenge because both partners must agree. If you and your spouse or partner are separating, it is wise to obtain reliable information about your options and obligations when it comes to the house you own jointly.

Staying or going?

If you or your partner owned a house in Alberta before you joined households, the one whose name is on the title is the one who gets the house in a breakup. However, jointly owning a home makes things more complicated. You have several options, including keeping the house and renting it out, selling the house and splitting the proceeds, or having one partner buy out the interests of the other for full ownership of the house. Both partners must agree on which option to choose.

Selling the home outright seems like the simplest decision. However, you will have certain expenses to consider. For example, you may have to pay a penalty for breaking your mortgage contract. You will also have to come to many agreements along the way, such as whether to make improvements before selling and when to accept an offer on the property.

Other options

If one of you decides to stay in the home, he or she will probably have to refinance the mortgage to obtain the funds to buy out the partner's stake in the home. Qualifying for a mortgage is not always easy for someone who may have little individual credit history apart from a spouse. You may have to explore alternate forms of financing or find a co-signer.

You may have other ideas about what to do with your house following the divorce or separation. The catch is that if you own it jointly, you and your partner must agree on the outcome. This may take some negotiation and legal strategy. You may find assistance in this area by reaching out to an Alberta lawyer who has experience finding personalised solutions to family law issues.

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