Maybe you have a lovely cabin up on a lake that you like to visit in the summer, or perhaps you have a condo in a ski community that your family usually spends the winter holidays visiting. Having a second home is nice, but it can certainly complicate your divorce.

Real estate is often hotly contested in a pending divorce. However, it is common for couples to focus primarily on the family’s home, rather than on secondary properties like a vacation home or hunting cabin.

Still, while a vacation property may not have nearly the same value as your primary residence, it still represents a significant investment and a substantial portion of your marital estate. What will likely happen to your vacation home in the divorce?

What happens to the property depends on how the courts classify it

When trying to determine whether an asset is subject to division, the courts must establish whether the property is separate property owned solely by one spouse or marital property that both spouses share an ownership interest in.

If you inherited the cabin from your uncle or if you already owned it before you got married, it could be your separate property. Still, if you and your spouse purchased the property during your marriage or if you use marital assets, like income earned during the marriage, to maintain the property or cover expenses like taxes and utilities, your spouse could potentially have at least a partial claim to the property.

How did the courts handle secondary properties in a divorce?

If the courts determine that the cabin or vacation home is separate property, they will not do anything with it as part of the divorce. However, if they determine that the property is marital property, they may take one of several approaches to it.

They may order the couple to sell the property and split the proceeds from the sale. The courts could also decide that one spouse will keep that property. In that circumstance, the spouse retaining the property will likely need to refinance it if there is a mortgage on it. The spouse who doesn’t receive the cabin will likely receive other assets to offset its worth. Alternately, the courts would allocate one spouse to receive more assets or more of the marital debt as a way to produce a more fair outcome.

Pushing for the best outcome in your divorce can involve considering carefully what you would like to do with major assets like your vacation home. Instead of just fighting for as much as possible, creating priorities and focusing on an overall positive outcome may be a better strategy.