By Mary Lynne Gibbs • 2018 Director
Closings are typically the time to celebrate and are often topped off with champagne. This is not always the case when couples are divorcing. Our fiduciary duties as professionals are to put our clients at ease; making sure to treat both spouses or soon to be ex-spouses equally. Remain neutral, avoid giving relationship advice, remember you are not a marriage counselor, but have a willingness to listen.
The closing may be the final act in dividing assets in a settlement agreement. Separating marital assets should be left in the hands of your clients and their attorneys. Remember REALTORS shall not engage in activities that constitute the unauthorized practice of law as per the Code of Ethics. Obtaining a copy of their divorce decree, open communication with their attorneys and the title company will help ensure a smooth transaction. Utilizing your title resources for a preliminary closing disclosure or estimated net sheet when taking the listing will allow transparency and prevent surprises at closing. Ask your clients how they would like to be communicated with and copy both on all correspondence. A “paper trail” is always a good habit so nothing gets lost in translation.
Divorcing couples with children can be the hardest. Paying extra special attention to them will brighten their day. They of course did not wish for these changes in their lives. Will both parties be able to purchase or only able to lease? Is there damaged credit? Housing may be smaller and less affordable based on one person’s income. All these things are to be taken into consideration.
The house was once filled with memories, dreams and traditions; the adjustment to change can be very emotional. One spouse may have moved on in another relationship and the other one remaining in the house may have a lot of anger festering with additional responsibilities such as having the house on the market and keeping it show ready. Some tips to help with the sale may be to incentivize the seller with offering housekeeping services paid by the party that is ready to get the house sold or offering financial gain for a good showing.
Scheduling separate signings at closing may be best for some and less stressful. Divorcing couple representation can be twice as much work and double communication yet certainly worthwhile.