Can The Court Force The Sale of Your House in Divorce?

Kyle Hiscock

Kyle Hiscock | Greater Rochester NY Real Estate | Pittsford NY Realtor at RE/MAX Realty Group

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Forcing a House Sale in Divorce

Can The Court Force The Sale of Your House in Divorce
Can The Court Force The Sale of Your House in Divorce

The end of a marriage can be traumatic. You have committed to someone, and it just didn’t work out for whatever reason. When divorce happens, the family home is often the single most significant dispute.

Who gets to keep the house? Does the house have to be sold? Is the asset split equally? These are often some of the questions that go through both spouses’ minds.

Sometimes one spouse has no desire to sell the marital home. Selling a house during divorce can become contentious when both parties are not on the same page.

Quite often, either the husband or wife will want to keep the house. The question arises of whether a court can force the sale of the house. The simple answer is they can and do all the time.

One of the most challenging aspects of divorce is dividing up marital assets.

When couples split up, they often have to figure out how to divide their assets. This can be a complex process, especially regarding big-ticket items like the family home.

In many cases, one person gets to keep the home while the other party receives compensation for their share of the property. However, sometimes the home must be sold, and the proceeds are divided between the parties.

What to Do With The Marital Home in Divorce?

There are essentially three things that can happen when considering selling a house during a divorce.

  • The spouses agree to sell the house and split the proceeds in some fashion.
  • Keep the house and stay in it for a specified period of time.
  • One spouse keeps the house, and the other finds other living arrangements. When finances are tight, renting a house or apartment may be a good option.

Courts Can Force You to Sell The Marital Home

If you’re facing the possibility of selling your home after a divorce, you’re probably wondering what to do if one of the parties refuses to sell. Can a court tell the parties what needs to happen?

Unfortunately, unless one of the parties is prepared to take on the mortgage and other expenses related to owning a home and buy out their partner, the best thing to do is to sell the property and divide up the proceedings.

However, this is definitely easier said than done, especially if one of the parties refuses to sell.

So, what happens if one of the parties refuses to play fair? Can a court intervene? Let’s have an in-depth look.

Can a Judge Force The Sale of My House in a Divorce?

Yes, they can. If a divorcing couple cannot agree to a settlement and it is required to go to trial, a judge can order the sale of a house immediately. In fact, if two parties cannot agree on who gets to keep the house, this is precisely what will happen.

Different marital laws can exist in different states, so you must check first. A real estate attorney or divorce lawyer can give you the answer.

For example, in Massachusetts, a judge can order the proceeds of a home to be divided in any way they decide is fair, whether it is 50/50 or some other arrangement.

Can I Force My Spouse to Sell The House?

Whether you can force the sale of your house in a divorce typically comes down to your circumstances related to your unique relationship condition.

If you have a good reason for wanting to sell the house, such as needing the money to support yourself or your children, the court may rule in your favor.

However, if your spouse is opposed to selling the house, the court may decide that it should remain in their name. Ultimately, it is up to the court to decide whether or not to force the sale of a home during a divorce.

When kids are involved, a judge will often consider the children’s welfare.

Can a Judge Force me to Leave My Home During a Divorce?

Court Forces Me to Leave Home in Divorce
Court Forces Me to Leave Home in Divorce

When deciding which spouse will be allowed to keep the family home, judges will consider several factors, including:

  • The needs of the children when they exist
  • The length of the marriage
  • Incomes of each spouse
  • Occupation of the spouses
  • The age and health of the spouses
  • The behavior of each spouse during the time of marriage
  • The contribution of each party to purchase and maintain the home

Judges May Force One Party to Leave Based on the following:

  • One of the parties buys the other out of their share of ownership. The value is often determined ahead of time and the party keeping the house needs to show they can afford it.
  • Other assets have an equivalent value to their share of the equity.
  • If the home is without equity, one spouse can propose keeping the home while the other party is relieved of liability.
  • If one spouse has shown detrimental conduct during the marriage – such as putting their spouse through financial hardship or abuse – the judge may award the property to the non-offending party.
  • A judge can award a house to the party that would otherwise be unable to procure a similar property if the marriage lasted for a long duration.
  • If one spouse would like to preserve their property for dependent children, they must be able to buy out the other party.

Is it Possible For a Judge to Defer the House Sale in Divorce?

Depending on the state in which you’re located, it is possible for a judge to defer a home sale. Typically, this can happen when there are dependent children who would benefit.

Final Thoughts

Selling a house and getting divorced are two extremely stressful events. Putting these two together can be explosive and not good for your health. It is best to make careful decisions and lean on others for help.

If you ultimately decide to sell the family home, work with a real estate agent with some divorce experience. It can make a world of difference working with a professional who has been there and done that.

A real estate agent will divorce sale experience is essential. They will know how to sell a house in divorce with the fewest complications.

Best of luck during these emotional times.


About the author: The above article on “Can The Court Force The Sale of Your House in Divorce?” was written by Bill Gassett. Bill has been working in the real estate industry for the past thirty-three years. He works for RE/MAX Executive Realty in Hopkinton Massachusetts. Bill loves providing trustworthy information to buyers, sellers, and fellow real estate agents to make the best possible decisions. His writing has been featured on RIS Media, National Association of Realtors, Inman News, Placester, Today.com, Credit Sesame, and others.


About Rochester’s Real Estate Blog: Rochester’s Real Estate Blog is owned and operated by Kyle Hiscock of the Hiscock Sold Team at RE/MAX Realty Group.

Since being launched in 2013, Kyle has published more than 150 quality, in-depth, and unique real estate related articles on the Rochester Real Estate Blog pertaining to topics varying from home selling to mortgages and everything in between!  In addition to quality real estate related content, there are also many quality articles pertaining to the Greater Rochester NY area.

The Rochester Real Estate Blog has been recognized by many reputable websites as one of the best real estate blogs to visit and follow!  In addition to being recognized as one of the best real estate blogs, Kyle has been recognized as one of the top Realtors on social media by several organizations and websites.

With over 40 years combined experience, if you’re thinking of selling or buying, we’d love to share our knowledge and expertise.

We service the following Greater Rochester NY areas: Irondequoit, Webster, Penfield, Pittsford, Fairport, Brighton, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Brockport, Mendon, Henrietta, Perinton, Churchville, Scottsville, East Rochester, Rush, Honeoye Falls, Chili, and Victor NY.

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