Selling the home at the end of a marriage calls for emotional sensitivity and an understanding of financial and legal complexities.

When a marriage dissolves, full-boil emotions can overtake reason as couples untangle their finances, routines, and other details of their life together. Practitioners who understand the complexities of selling a home during a divorce bring a compassion that’s just as vital to the process as their business acumen.

While the divorce rate has been trending downward for a decade, close to a million married couples still split each year. Those life transitions call for expertise that some consumers may not even realize they need from real estate practitioners.

It can be useful for divorcing sellers to consult with a local real estate agent well before they’re ready to put the house on the market, even before the divorce itself is settled or goes to trial, says Kelly Lise Murray, a law professor at Vanderbilt Law School.

Talk to a knowledgeable agent now!

A Santa Cruz County real estate professional experienced in the divorce niche can provide clients with step-by-step guidance to protect them-selves legally and financially. designation course (unaffiliated with NAR) called the Real Estate Collaborative Specialist—Divorce.

Patti Lyles, a sales associate with Century 21 Showcase, REALTORS ® in Scotts Valley, Calif., has been working with divorcing spouses for eight years. She had a client who tried to refinance after a divorce, only to learn there was a 10-year-old lien against the property. “No one thinks to run a background title report on a house,” she says.

Having gone through her own divorce battle in the early 1990s, Lyles says having patience with your clients’ predicament is important. “I know how traumatic it was to sell my house that I loved in an upside down market,” she says.

Patti Lyles deals with both sellers; She is sure to communicate with both equally. Avoids holding meetings that exclude either party. That can worsen trust issues.

Lyles has a background in law, but she’s careful—and warns other real estate practitioners to be careful—not to give legal advice. Agents should refer their clients to lawyers or financial planners to address legal questions and financial and tax considerations. She has a referral list.

 “If the house is handled incorrectly during divorce, one or both spouses may be ineligible to qualify for a mortgage, and thus unable to refinance the marital joint mortgage or buy a house with new loan origination for years,” Lyles says.

One mistake divorcing couples can make is not examining and making needed adjustments to the homeowner’s insurance policy. Just because two people are married—and on the deed—doesn’t mean they’re both named as insured parties on the home. If one spouse is listed only as an insurance beneficiary and remains in the home, he or she will not be covered after the divorce is final.

Although most of Lyles’s clients come through referrals, marketing is also important. Her website highlights her expertise and generates online inquiries regularly.