Buying a house is a huge investment. For most people, it’s the single biggest purchase we ever make. Because of this value, it’s also usually the most significant asset to divide in a divorce. But what if you were never married? How does that change things?
One of our founding partners, Rick Jones, regularly appears on the Danny Bonaduce and Sarah Morning Show, where he answers common family law questions from listeners. On a recent episode, a caller finds himself in this tricky situation. He and his ex-girlfriend bought a house together only to later break up. He can’t afford to buy her out and she doesn’t want to leave. What can he do? What are his options?
Listen to the Conversation Below
Caller: “I’m with a long-term girlfriend who is cheating now. Or has been for a while. But we bought a house together. I can’t get her to go out, and I can’t afford to get out. What can I do to help push her out?”
Danny: “I can think of all sorts of things, but if you want what’s legal to do, let’s go to Rick Jones.”
Rick: “And when you say you own the home together, you bought it with both of your credits and…”
Caller: “I can’t afford to buy her out but she won’t leave.”
Rick: “Welp, even though this is a domestic relationship, the reality is you need to go through a process called a ‘partition,’ and that’s just as if you and I bought this home together. You basically say, ‘This needs to be sold, I’m unable to cover the entirety of it, she’s unwilling to leave, this needs to be sold.’
“Now at that point, she’ll probably come to her senses and leave. Because if you’re able to buy her out, then you’re able to say, ‘Listen, you don’t have to go through the cost of sale if you just leave. I’ll stay on and buy you out with half of your remainder.'”
Danny: “To be honest with you, I don’t even understand why it’s a question. I mean you combined money, and if Rick Jones taught me anything, that [house belongs to both of you]. She’s going to come to her senses and realize, every dollar we spend is a dollar I had in this house that I don’t have anymore. So follow that advice my friend and you’ll be smoking.”
Related Reading: Moore Marsden, Shared Homes, and Divorce
A Similar Question
Caller: “I’ve been together with someone for 25 years. We were never married. We do own a house together and we are possibly breaking up, and I would like to have the house liquidated, but I have a feeling he’s going to get really nasty. I’m just wondering what my actions need to be either prior to this happening or what the outcome might be?”
Danny: “Okay, your question is, you didn’t marry a guy, been together 25 years, two-and-a-half decades together. You bought a house together. You’re gonna split up and you wanna know what’s going to happen to that house?”
Rick: “My first question to you is did you buy this together? Not only with both of your names and credit but have you also been equally paying into it in terms of the mortgage?”
Caller: “Yes, we have. We’ve split everything, every bill down the middle for the whole time. Both of our names are on the title.”
Rick: “Great. You have two potential avenues to address this. Outside of family law is this concept of ‘action for partition.’ It’s just as if Danny and I owned a house together and we had to say, you know what, we’re parting ways, as business partners or other partners I guess, and ultimately dividing up the asset value associated with it. Now, that’s outside the family law spectrum.
“The other potential she has is an action for what’s called a meretricious relationship, which is saying, ‘I know we weren’t married legally, but we’ve behaved as married, we’ve had joint financial obligations, take a look at this house for example,’ and then expand.
“What that does is give you the potential to expand, not just this house, but especially if there’s a significant difference of income between the two of you, maybe there’s some other property and roads for her as well.”
Danny: “From what I get on this one though, is if you would like half of a house, you’re going to be happy with this outcome, and if you don’t, you’re not. I think you’re in it 50/50 and Rick asked all the right questions.”
Related Reading: Moore Marsden, Shared Homes, and Divorce: What You Need to Know