For most of us, a house is the most expensive purchase we ever make. Because of this, it’s also often the most valuable asset on the table during divorce.
How the courts handle this varies a great deal. Sometimes they give it to one spouse or the other. Another common strategy is that one spouse must sell the house and the two parties divide the proceeds. This is pretty straightforward. But what if the court orders your ex to sell the house, but they don’t? What can you do?
Rick Jones, one of our founding partners, makes regular appearances on the Danny Bonaduce and Sarah Morning show, where he addresses family law questions from listeners. On a recent episode, he fielded just this question.
“My divorce decree states that my ex-wife is required to list and sell the home we owned together but she continues to live in the house and shows no signs of intent to sell or of moving. What can I do to force the issue, or what can I get the courts to do? Do I need to file something with the courts? What do I need to do to prove she’s not abiding by this judgment?”
Danny: “Great question.”
Rick: “It is a great question. This comes up more than you’d even think. What I heard in that email that’s very promising, is it sounds like that was part of the agreement and the divorce decree actually includes that language. The reason that’s so important is that it’s not a handshake, the decree becomes a court order.
“So it’s now the judge, whoever signed off on that, is really ordering this even though it was by agreement. So what he has to do is called a motion to enforce. In front of the court, basically say, look, she was required to do this, presumably within a period of time, she hasn’t. Or we can apply a reasonable period of time, and the courts very likely to put her on a calendar track. Obviously, they can’t say, ‘You need to leave the household in 30 days,’ but they can say, ‘If you don’t have it listed in the next 45-60 days, then you have to come back here.’”
Danny: “Or you can also do what I did. I sold my ex-wife our house that we had together. And here’s the reason I don’t necessarily recommend that; because I don’t like her much. If I liked her that much I wouldn’t have divorced her. And she had a house in a really high accelerating area and now it’s worth 3 times as much and it hurts my feelings.”
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