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Underwater Houses, Home Equity and Divorce: Sink, Tread Water or Swim?

Many spouses who consider divorce in the current economy face questions about either spouse's ability to keep a house that is worth much less than it may have been several years ago. Marital property division can be difficult under the best of financial circumstances, but negative equity in the family home can pose challenges if the house is the couple's primary asset.

A recent report from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) found that 85% of its membership of divorce lawyers had seen an increase in complications involving settlement of marital property issues due to mortgage debt over the past three years. Ongoing economic problems are also affecting other divorce issues, and 53% of AAML family law attorneys have seen an increase in child custody relocation petitions, as unemployed parents hope to pursue employment opportunities in other communities and states.

Georgia couples who own a home may be facing even greater challenges, given that our state has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country. Issues of complex property division are an important reason for a husband or wife to enlist an experienced Georgia divorce attorney, even if the spouses generally agree about what should happen with the family home.

A marital property division lawyer can explain the financial aspects of family law, from equitable distribution and separate property to valuation of business interests and ensuring that a spouse does not have hidden assets that must be considered in the divorce process. Even when all that's left to divide is the negative equity in an underwater mortgage, a divorce lawyer can explain strategies for a clear path to financial independence.

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