As many of you know, one of the reasons I’ve dedicated my career to helping divorcing homeowners with their real estate needs is because I care about kids. And divorce is traumatic for kids — in almost all cases, in my experience. If there’s a custody battle, it’s even more painful for the family, and more complicated for us Realtors.
Last week, our faculty family law attorneys held a live Q&A on Facebook in our private group. (Please join us there!) And the subject of custody came up: How does a custody battle affect the sale of the house? It’s just not something one would ever think of in the midst of a regular real estate listing, right? But in divorce real estate, it absolutely matters, and that’s why I want to share what the attorneys had to say.
Marie Moreno-Myers, Esq., one of the family law attorneys there to answer questions, also happens to be a Minor’s Counsel Attorney, which means that she provides legal representation to children in divorce cases. (She, too, loves the kids, and that’s why we refer to her as “MamaBear.”)
Marie shared that technically and legally, custody battles should not affect the sale of the house, because the purpose of divorce is to divide property. The courts don’t usually consider the kids, except in rare cases of a child with special needs.
HOWEVER, from an emotional point of view — and that’s where we, as neutral divorce real estate experts come in — the traumatic effects of selling a childhood home and uprooting the kids absolutely affects the listing.
Case in point: Early in my real estate career, I listed a property for a woman (let’s call her Maggie) whose husband had left her and her two kids years before. The kids knew their dad had moved out, and knew about the divorce, but the day they came home from school and saw the For Sale sign in the front yard, it was clear Maggie hadn’t told them they had to move. And they were devastated.
From that moment on, we have always made sure to call our clients to let them know when the sign is going up in the yard.
In other cases in my experience, one spouse doesn’t want to move. They don’t want to disrupt the kids’ school year, or they want to stay in the area for other reasons, and they can’t afford to. So they delay, defer, and often disappear from the process.
That’s why we as Realtors need to activate our Spidey senses in situations like these. Knowing what’s happening in terms of custody or other legal aspects of the divorce can help inform us of the party’s motivation to sell — or lack thereof — so that we can use the powers of empathy and persuasion to keep the listing moving along.
All while being mindful of the kids.