One of the dilemmas that divorcing couples are currently faced with in this rough economy is how to deal with the marital homestead. In a depressed real estate market, it is not an optimum time to sell the house. But selling the house is a necessity for many couples in which neither spouse can afford the house on their own; particularly if the couple is behind on payments and/or the house's current value is LESS than the mortgage balance.
The upside of selling in a bad market is BUYING in a bad market. If both spouses are going to be able to buy into the bad market, then selling ultimately is not a drawback. This requires either that the house proceeds – though lower than desired – are still sufficient for each spouse to make a down payment OR the individual spouses may obtain financial backing (from a bank or family member) to make the down payment on a new residence.
For many couples, the answer is to find a way to hold on to the house until the market recovers. In many cases, that involves one spouse maintaining the homestead, possibly at a deficit; and the other spouse renting, possibly also at a deficit. It is difficult for the spouse who maintains the homestead to wait – and hope – for the day that the homestead has gained back the lost equity. It is difficult for the spouse who does not maintain the homestead, because the value of their interest in the home is determined at the time of the divorce, an inopportune time in this economy.