Divorcees no longer battling over houses

LOS ANGELES It was love at first sight when MaryBeth Perrault found her dream home.

"I thought I would retire here and knew that this was a house that we could raise the family in," said Perrault.

But that was three years ago. Now Perrault and her husband have split up and her dream home has become a nightmare.

"Now I can't stand it," said Perrault. "The house is heavily mortgaged."

Spouses used to fight to keep the house. Now, it can be the hot potato that nobody wants.

"No, no, no. You take it. I'm happy with you taking it," said attorney Gary Nickelson.

Attorney Gary Nickelson is president of the /*American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers*/. He calls it the newest divorce dilemma.

"Everybody wants the asset that's worth something," said Nickelson. "Nobody wants the asset that's not worth anything or has debt attached to it."

Neither Perrault nor her husband could afford the house on their own, so she's living there, but they put it on the market. So far, no takers.

She says her husband now pays less in child support and helps with the mortgage instead. But Perrault is still short each month, so she's taken in a boarder.

Divorce attorney Vikkie Ziegler says the current economic climate forces couples to get creative.

"I'll allow one party to remain in the home, not pull the equity out, try to come up with a financial package, and then perhaps when a child turns 18 or graduates high school, they'll sell it because the market perhaps would be better," said Ziegler.

And Nickelson says he's even hearing stories of couples staying together after they're divorced.

"'Well, we can't get rid of the house, so I tell you what. We'll just live in the house until times are better. You can take the upstairs and I'll take the downstairs,'" said Nickelson.

If you're facing a divorce, there are some things to consider: Can either you or your ex afford the mortgage on your own? Would either spouse qualify to refinance and reduce the monthly payments? Would either be willing to take on the house for the tax break?

MaryBeth Perrault is anxious to move on.

"You go through so much stress to begin with and to be saddled with -- I always call it the beast on my back -- to be saddled with that on top of the emotional stress of a divorce is really, really difficult," said Perrault.

Perrault has already dropped her asking price by $30,000, and says she may go even lower just to get it to sell sooner.

She says she doesn't expect to get anywhere near what she paid for the house just three years ago.



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