Marital home and an underwater mortgage


When a divorcing couple owes more on the marital home than what the property is worth and one spouse wishes to keep the property and assume all the mortgage debt, does that person have to buy out the other person since there is no equity in the property?


Over the past several years, many divorcing couples have found that the poor economy has caused a tremendous impact on the value of their biggest asset, usually the marital home.

Sadly, your situation is more common than you realize. If, as a couple, you owe more on your mortgage than the home is currently worth, then you have no equity in the property.

Typically, Missouri courts will divide debts and assets equally. Equity is an asset. In your case, without equity, there is nothing to divide. The only concern you may have is how to divide the mortgage/debt on the home.

Normally, the spouse that agrees to remain in the home also agrees to refinance the property so that the other party does not remain responsible for the debt on the residence. Usually there is not a division of the debt, since the party remaining in the house will, presumably, be able to recoup the benefit of any future equity.

Please understand that my opinions are based upon the limited facts that you provided to me. For a more in depth discussion of your legal rights, I urge you to contact an attorney immediately.

Cordell & Cordell has well qualified and experienced men’s divorce lawyers located nationwide, including many in Missouri, if you require additional legal assistance.


Michelle Hughes is an Associate Attorney in the Jefferson County, Missouri office of Cordell & Cordell where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Hughes is licensed in the states of Missouri and Illinois, and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. A native to metro St. Louis, Ms. Hughes received her BBA in Economics and Finances from McKendree College. She later received her Juris Doctor from Thomas Cooley Law School where she graduated cum laude.

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