Divorced but ‘still married to the house’ | VailDaily.com

Divorced but ‘still married to the house’

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – When a couple gets divorced, someone typically moves out.

But that hasn’t necessarily been the case since the recession hit.

“There are more people who are having to work out arrangements to live in the same house together while the divorce is going on, which is very unusual,” said Judi Carlson, a divorce lawyer who practices in Eagle County.

Carlson said she only handled two cases prior to the recession in which the couple kept living together during the divorce – and she’s been practicing for 35 years. She’s had nine in the last year, including a few cases in Eagle.

“Because they can’t sell their houses, they have no money to move or separate into separate places,” she said.

Divorce tends to be a messy business. The recession has made it even more complicated for some couples.

Selling the house and dividing up the money is a common method of settling the money side of divorces.

However, the downturn in real estate has made selling the house more difficult.

“You’re divorced but still married to the house,” said Andy Littman, a divorce lawyer who practices in Eagle County.

Trouble selling the house has prolonged the divorce process for some couples, he said.

“But I think, in the end, the ability to settle equitably depends on the personalities of the folks getting divorced,” Littman said.

Although real estate has made some divorces more complicated, the recession has eased the strain on other issues. Under Colorado law, couples have to divide up any increases in trust funds, stock market shares or securities accounts that accrue during the marriage, Littman said.

Due to the recession, those accounts haven’t increased in recent years, so couples have one less thing to squabble about.

Although several lawyers said they haven’t seen an uptick in the number of divorces since the recession hit, the downturn has put a strain on many relationships.

Charles D. Glass, an Avon psychologist with a doctorate degree in clinical psychology from the International University of California at San Diego, echoed the fact that housing has been a point of contention for some couples.

Whether they own houses or work in the construction business, the downturn has placed extra stress on relationships. A lot of people are out of work or their incomes have been cut, so conflicts arise about how to handle living in the Vail area, he said.

“Do they move? Do they not move? And if they want to move but can’t sell their house, can’t rent their house, there’s a whole domino effect I see going on because of the economy,” he said.

In general, the recession can test a relationship.

“It forces people to either work together as a team to figure out what they’re going to do, or it emphasizes their differences or inability to communicate and figure out a plan, in which case they become more distant and, sometimes, splinter,” Glass said.

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.

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