Boy, Am I Happy I’m Getting the House! by Don Sinkov

{3:54 minutes to read} A divorcing couple has decided how they are going to divide their assets. They really don’t need a mediator to mediate the terms because they have already decided, without knowing family law. Or how a judge might decide their case. Or what factors they need to consider.

They have been thinking about their settlement for a while and like what they have. The husband and wife don’t really want to hear what I have to say. Although they’ve hired me as a mediator, they don’t want me to mediate. They just want me to write out the deal they have.

Sometimes I’m okay with this, because I understand how important self-determination is, but it has to come from a place of knowledge—you know, like you really know what you are doing.

So this is the agreement they made:

  • The husband is keeping all the bank accounts, his yearly bonus, and his pension and various retirement accounts.
  • The wife is getting the house.
  • The husband is paying child support and spousal maintenance equal to the amount of the mortgage and taxes.
  • The wife is staying in the home. She’s not getting any cash and has no bank accounts.

The husband is understandably thrilled with this deal.

The wife is also thrilled with the deal, because the house is where the family has lived for many years and represents stability in her life.

This makes me feel a little uncomfortable. What if there is an emergency and she has to make a large repair? What if the husband loses his job or gets a reduction in salary or becomes disabled? Is he going to be able to make the monthly payments as agreed? Where is the money going to come from?

You want some kind of balance when dividing marital assets in a divorce. You want to get some cash, some retirement assets, and some hard assets like a house that will provide you with some money in an emergency. You want to spread the risk by getting a share of different assets.

I asked the wife if her monthly budget would allow her to keep the house. She said, “Don’t worry. He’s going to pay me all this money every month.” I said, “Well, that’s fine, and I respect your decision, but you really should go to attorneys to have this reviewed. Get their opinions on your agreement. Who knows? Maybe they will have some good suggestions.

Like most of my clients, this couple doesn’t want to go to attorneys, and after all, this is mediation and I have to respect their decision. That is the hardest part about being a mediator; you are not always comfortable with every settlement. If you were representing either the husband or wife, their division of assets might look very different.

Maybe giving up your share of other marital assets and ending up with your house is really important to you. But while owning the house may make you happy, at the same time, make sure that you can afford to keep it.

About Don Sinkov

Don Sinkov Your Divorce Mediator Westchester County, NY Putnam County, NY Phone: (914) 588-6258 eMail: