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Forced Sale of Home?

Can you force your ex-spouse to sell the marital home, so that you can receive your portion of the equity?  Maybe.   If your Judgment of Divorce provides a mechanism for sale, or requires it to be sold, and your ex-spouse is simply refusing, a court might order him or her to comply with the Judgment, on pain of contempt.  If your Judgment of Divorce provides for it, you might even be able to recover your attorney fees and costs incurred in going to Court to force your ex to comply.

What if your Judgment of Divorce does not provide a mechanism for selling the house (or a vacation property that you owned together, or a vacant lot, for instance)?  Once the Judgment of Divorce is entered, you and your ex-spouse no longer hold the property as tenants by the entirety; now you own it together, as tenants in common (assuming that the Judgment of Divorce does not otherwise provide for what will happen to the property).  A tenant in common generally has a right to “partition” the property.  That is, one tenant in common has a right to ask a Court to divide the property into portions, roughly equal in value to the respective ownership.  If that division cannot be effectively made (such as a single-family dwelling), a Court may order that the property be sold and the proceeds divided.  That may be, for such property, the only effective way to force a sale.  But, in the right set of circumstances, partition can be an effective tool for forcing an ex-spouse to “get on with it.”

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