In 2000 — the latest year data are available from the U.S. Census — 6.4 percent of Virginia’s homes were mobile homes. The 185,282 manufactured homes are a sharp increase over the number of such homes in 1950, when 4,508 mobile homes accounted for only 0.5 percent of our Commonwealth’s housing. We are a mobile culture; we move around a lot, and carrying our homes with us just seems like the right thing to do for many of us. So … how does your Virginia divorce affect your life in a mobile home?
Is It A Legal Residence?
To qualify as a home for tax purposes (to deduct mortgage interest), any structure has to provide these essentials, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS):
- Sleeping accommodations
- Cooking capability
- Toilet facilities
Most mobile home owners use one of Virginia’s 644 mobile home parks, allowing them to hook up to water, power and sewage connections. Many residents of these parks do not plan to move their manufactured homes, but the homes are mobile; they can be moved.
Typically, a mobile home owner owns the home but not the land it sits on. The site is rented from the owner of the mobile home park. This distinction from a brick-and-mortar home affects the manufactured home’s designation in a divorce; it is a piece of personal property, not real estate.
The Renter-Landlord Relationship
Since the land your mobile home sits on is rented from a mobile home park operator, you are in a renter-landlord relationship and protected by Code of Virginia §55-248.41, the Manufactured Home Lot Rental Act. This means your name and your wife’s name should be on the lease if the home is marital property. This also means you may have to ask the landlord to remove her name from the lease, something the landlord can do as a courtesy only. The lease in both names is legally marital property, subject to equitable division.
So, Who Owns the Mobile Home??
If you purchased the mobile home before your divorce, using your own funds, you own it. That makes it separate personal property in the marriage, so at property settlement, your wife is not entitled to a portion of it.
If you purchased the mobile home during the marriage, it is marital property and subject to equitable division during property settlement, in compliance with Code of Virginia §20-107.3.
If you purchased the mobile home during your marriage using money that can be traced to your personal effort (inheritance, royalties, profits from investments you made), it is considered hybrid property and, again, is subject to equitable division.
If the mobile home is to be divided between you and your ex-wife, you have several options:
- Buy her out of her half
- She buys you out of your half
- Sell the mobile home and divide the profits as outlined in the property settlement agreement
A mobile home carries a title similar to a car, not a piece of real estate. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) handles these transfers and issuance of the hauling permit needed to move your home on wheels.
Who Lives in the Mobile Home?
If your mobile home is the primary residence in the marriage, one of you had to move out to effect the separation time needed to move to an uncontested divorce. If your manufactured home is a double-wide, a reasonable argument can be made that one of you could seclude yourselves in a separate room and continue to live in the mobile home, but that may be too great a challenge. You cannot share anything with your ex-wife during the six-month or one-year separation:
- No sex with each other
- No cooking, cleaning, or shopping for the other
- No cards, gifts, courtesies, errands or chores for the other
Assume you own it outright and you live in it, both during separation and while your divorce is proceeding. Can you get up and go? Once you get a DMV hauling permit, you can take your manufactured home just about anywhere you wish.
Where Can the Mobile Home be Moved?
Unless your property settlement agreement or divorce decree has specific wording binding you to a single address, you are free to move or sell your manufactured or mobile home. You may have to notify your wife’s attorney of your new address (so that future petitions or legal papers can be served to you in your new mobile home park) but you are not bound by the law to keep your home in one spot within the state.
For practical purposes, many mobile home owners, rather than hauling their home, prefer to sell the home within the mobile home park and move into another available home elsewhere. Again, nothing in Virginia divorce law affects that, though the divorce decree details regarding child custody may require you to remain in your child’s school district.
The middle of a mobile home move may not be the ideal time to call The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184. You can wait until after you are settled into your new digs, or contact us online, to learn more about Virginia property settlement, divorce, and buying your spouse out of her half of marital property.