Given the downward spiral of real estate values during the past 5-8 years, more couples divorcing today are faced with the very real problem of what to do with a house that is worth less than what is owed on it. There are no easy answers, but there is help available. On July 5, 2009, Public Act No. 29 was enacted to help homeowners facing financial difficulties keep their homes. The Loan modification laws found at MCL 600.3205a require banks to consider modifying a mortgage prior to initiating the foreclosure process. Another good source for help with credit problems in general is FindAid.org.
If you are divorcing, you need to consider carefully who will keep the house and how any default on the mortgage will be handled (especially if the party no longer living in the home is still on the mortgage). Some options include: 1) working with the bank to accept a short sale of the home and forgive the deficiency; 2) having the party keeping the house look into a loan modification; 3) attempt a short sale and state specifically in the Judgment how the deficiency on the loan will be allocated; 4) attempt to sell the home outright; 4) rent (which can be a nightmare); 5) consider bankruptcy. (If you go this route, you need a good bankruptcy attorney and family law attorney who can advise you as to the timing of this. To check out national bankruptcy attorneys visit www.nacba.org).