Selling the Family House During Divorce in Maine

Selling the Family House During Divorce in Maine

What’s going to happen to the house?

It’s a key question in many divorces, the answer to which will depend on your circumstances. There are several possible outcomes, from selling the house to co-owning it or buying out the other spouse.

If you’re looking to sell the family house during a divorce in Maine, you’ll need to be aware of your legal rights and obligations in doing so. Selling the house is likely to be complex so before going ahead, understand the potential complications and pitfalls to save time, headaches, and missteps.

Here’s most of what you need to know (plus a few tips) if you plan to sell the house during a divorce in Maine.

Request A Consultation

What can happen to the house in a Maine divorce?

Under Maine’s property division laws, it is an “equitable distribution” state. This means that property and debts in the marital estate must be divided fairly during a divorce. That doesn’t always mean an equal division of property because many factors are considered during the division process.

Most importantly, the court will consider each spouse’s financial situation and their contribution to the acquisition of the property.

The house is usually the largest asset in the marital estate, and its division is a key element of the overall property division “equation.” The court may decide that it’s best to sell the house and divide the proceeds between the couple.

If there are other significant assets and/or the home is highly valued as a place to raise the children, there may be another way to leave the house as co-owned or owned by one of the spouses.

As with all property division matters during a divorce, it’s generally better to come to an amicable arrangement with your spouse than let the Maine courts decide.

Here are the four main options that you have with the family home:

Because the house is typically the largest asset in the marital estate, it’s usually split between the divorcing parties, regardless of whose name is on the title.

You can’t physically split a house in two but there may be comparably sized assets that can compensate the spouse who “loses” the house, e.g., a holiday home, several vehicles, a stock portfolio, etc.

An alternative solution to the above scenario is that the spouse who wants to keep the house would buy out the share belonging to his/her partner.

This might be done through one lump sum payment or through payments made over time.

It’s unusual but, for financial reasons and/or for the sake of the children, divorcing spouses may continue to live there together.

Alternatively, they can take turns living in the home (sometimes called “bird nesting”) or remain as co-owners while renting it out and splitting the profits.

The most common solution is to sell the house and split the proceeds between the two parties. Both parties enjoy a “clean break” and can re-invest the funds as they begin independent lives with assets of their own.

Request A Consultation

Does the house have to be sold in a Maine divorce?

No, it is not a foregone conclusion that the house must be sold in a divorce in Maine. It is one of several workable scenarios — albeit the most common one.

The decision of whether to sell or not is up to the spouses and it’s best to make this decision together over calm and considered discussions.

If one party wants to keep the house and the other wants to sell, there may need to be mediation, negotiation, or collaboration between the parties’ respective lawyers. Failing that, a court will need to decide.

The main factors to consider when deciding whether to sell the family house are:

  • Financial reasons: can one parent afford to buy out the house, maintain mortgage payments and fund repairs or would it be better to sell and split the proceeds to start new lives?
  • The importance of the house to the family: if the home is considered essential for the upbringing of a child or children or has emotional attachments for one of the parties, there may be a compelling reason not to sell it.

Whether you are prepared to take the matter to court: some couples want to avoid court at all costs and would rather hammer out a solution between them — however difficult that may be — than let a court decide.

Can you sell a house before the divorce is finalized in Maine?

If both parties agree and are in communication with each other, it should be relatively simple to start the process of selling the house even if the divorce has not yet received final approval by the Maine courts.

Once sold, the proceeds from the sale (including profits) will likely be considered marital property and need to be split equitably between the parties.

This solution may allow the couple to move on more rapidly with separate assets to cover the extra expenses of running separate households while eliminating the expenses associated with the marital home.

Some couples first seek a judge’s approval before selling a house that they co-own — and both parties must usually sign off on the sale.

You’ll likely need good communication with your ex-spouse and to work together with a real estate agent as you would when selling a house at any time. Ideally, though, the agent will have experience in working in divorce situations. They will understand the various dynamics at play and the correct paperwork to complete and file with the court.

Legal guidance from a divorce lawyer is also a good idea to ward off the threat of potential legal disputes.

Request A Consultation

How to sell a home in Maine after the divorce settlement

If the decision to sell the house was not made before the divorce was finalized, you and your spouse can still sell the house afterward. Again, much depends on how well you and your ex cooperate and communicate.

The divorce settlement may address what happens with the proceeds of the sale of the house. If not, the spouses are obligated to share the proceeds of the house sale fairly and according to Maine’s property division laws. This may require legal assistance through collaboration between lawyers or mediation.

The real estate agent appointed will ideally have experience in working in post-divorce situations so that the paperwork and finances can be handled correctly.

When is the best time to sell a house in Maine?

It is usually in the interests of both parties in a divorce to sell the house for the maximum possible price.

The housing market in Maine is generally more buoyant in the spring or summer months so this is often a good time to sell the marital home and attain the target price.

You could also look to work with an investor or cash home buyer to speed up the sale process because they may be able to bypass traditional financing methods.

Selling the family house in Maine during a divorce is often more challenging than at other times but by remaining communicative, cooperative and in touch with the right real estate and legal advisors, you can both move on with your lives with a fair share of the prized marital asset.

If you’re in the process of separating or divorcing and want to understand your options with the family house, speak to an experienced family attorney at The Maine Divorce Group during an initial consultation.

Call 207-230-6884 or contact us online to schedule a consult with one of our highly skilled family law attorneys today.

We serve many clients, just like you, across Maine in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, & Lincoln Counties.


Contact The Maine Divorce Group today


Divorce is a highly emotional and stressful experience for most people. But you don’t have to face this challenge alone. Having a strong divorce attorney in your corner can help ensure that you and your children walk away from this process with the best opportunities available for future success and happiness.