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My Ex Refuses to Sell the House: What are My Options?

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My Ex Refuses to Sell the House-How a Legal Paraprofessional Can Help

When a relationship comes to an end, the division of assets can be a contentious issue. One of the most common sources of conflict is the family home. In some cases, one partner refuses to sell the house, leading to a deadlock in the separation process.

 Don’t let your ex’s refusal to sell the house prevent you from moving forward with your life. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and start the process of resolving this issue in a way that is fair and equitable for both parties.

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 23.5% of divorced couples own their homes jointly after separation. Ensure you’re on the right side of this statistic by reaching out for assistance. 

How Does Property Division Impact Your Assets 

In Arizona, the division of property during a divorce is guided by the principles of community property.

The marital home, often one of the most significant assets, plays a central role in this division.

Ownership Before Divorce:

  • Community Property Status: Under A.R.S. § 25-211, a house purchased during the marriage is considered community property and owned equally by both spouses, regardless of whose name is on the title.
  • Separate Property Status: If one spouse purchased the house before the marriage or received it as a gift or inheritance, it remains their separate property as outlined in A.R.S. § 25-213.
  • Mixed Ownership: Sometimes, a house may have both separate and community interests. For instance, if one spouse used separate funds for a down payment but the mortgage was paid with community income, it becomes a mixed-ownership asset.

Ownership After Divorce:

Selling the House: The most straightforward way to divide the marital home is to sell it and split the proceeds equitably. This can involve:

    • Agreeing on a sale price or getting an appraisal.
    • Paying off any remaining mortgage.
    • Dividing the net proceeds based on the divorce settlement.
  • One Spouse Keeps the House: Alternatively, one spouse can keep the house by:
    • Buying out the other spouse’s share, typically through refinancing.
    • Offering other marital assets to balance the division.
    • Assuming full responsibility for any remaining mortgage.
  • Deferred Sale: In cases involving minor children, the court may order a deferred sale, allowing one spouse to remain in the home until the children reach a certain age. This option requires:
    • Clear terms on how maintenance costs and taxes will be shared.
    • A future date or event triggering the sale or transfer of ownership.

Challenges in Dividing the House:

  • Emotional Attachment: Spouses may have strong emotional ties to the home, complicating negotiations.
  • Valuation Disputes: Conflicting opinions on the home’s value can lead to disputes.
  • Market Conditions: Selling in a down market may result in a financial loss.

Ultimately, the division of the marital home is influenced by various factors, including the couple’s financial situation, the needs of any children involved, and each spouse’s preferences. Understanding how property division laws apply to your specific circumstances can help ensure a fair and equitable outcome.

What is Joint Property Ownership 

Joint property ownership refers to a legal arrangement in which two or more individuals share ownership of a property. In Arizona, community property laws govern marital property ownership.

which means that any assets acquired during the marriage are typically considered jointly owned by both spouses. 

There are two primary forms of joint property ownership in Arizona:

  1. Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS): Both spouses share equal ownership interests in the property. If one spouse passes away, the other automatically inherits the deceased spouse’s share.
  2. Tenants in Common: Each spouse owns a specified percentage of the property, which may not necessarily be equal. When one spouse dies, their share does not automatically transfer to the surviving spouse but can be inherited by beneficiaries named in their will.

In a divorce, the marital home is often classified as community property, meaning both parties have an equal interest in the house.

This classification remains in place even if only one spouse’s name is on the title.

What If My-Ex Spouse Refuses to Sell

When your ex-spouse refuses to sell the marital home despite an agreement or court order, it can complicate the property division process. However, Arizona law provides several solutions to ensure a fair outcome.


Court-Ordered Sale

If a divorce decree or settlement agreement requires the sale of the house, but your ex-spouse refuses to comply, you can file a motion to enforce the court order. In such cases, the judge may appoint a neutral third party, such as a real estate agent or special commissioner, to handle the sale and ensure the proceeds are divided fairly.


Partition Action

Arizona law provides a legal remedy known as a partition action. According to A.R.S. § 12-1218, a partition action allows a co-owner of real estate to force the sale of jointly owned property. This legal action requires the court to assess the ownership interests of each party and order the property to be sold, with proceeds distributed according to ownership percentages.


Contempt of Court

If your ex-spouse is blatantly ignoring a court order to sell the marital home, they may be held in contempt of court. Refusal to follow a court order can result in penalties such as fines, community service, or even jail time, which can pressure your ex-spouse into cooperating with the sale.


Mediation or Negotiation

In some cases, refusal to sell may stem from emotional attachment or misunderstanding. Mediation or negotiation with a neutral third party can help reach a compromise that avoids the stress and cost of litigation.


Court-Appointed Receiver

If these options fail, the court can appoint a receiver to manage and sell the property on behalf of both parties. The receiver will ensure the sale proceeds smoothly and that the interests of both parties are respected.

Can You Force a Sale? 

In Arizona, it’s possible to force the sale of a marital home under certain conditions, particularly when one spouse refuses to cooperate.

However, your ex-spouse may also take certain actions to prevent the sale, complicating the process.

Actions to Force a Sale

  • Court Judgment: If the property division agreement specifies a sale but your ex-spouse refuses, you can file a motion to enforce the court’s order. The judge may appoint a neutral third party, such as a real estate agent or special commissioner, to manage the sale.
  • Partition Action: If the property wasn’t specifically allocated in a divorce decree, filing a partition action under A.R.S. § 12-1218 can compel a sale. The court will assess ownership interests and order the property sold, with proceeds divided accordingly.
  • Contempt of Court: If your ex-spouse is in direct violation of a court order, they may be held in contempt. Penalties could include fines, community service, or jail time, pressuring them to comply with the sale.
  • Court-Appointed Receiver: If mediation and negotiation fail, the court can appoint a receiver to manage and sell the property on behalf of both parties, ensuring the sale goes smoothly.

Actions to Prevent a Sale

  • Filing an Appeal: Your ex-spouse can appeal the court’s decision, delaying the sale. The appeal must be based on legitimate legal grounds, such as procedural errors or misinterpretation of the law.
  • Requesting a Deferred Sale: If children are involved, your ex-spouse might request a deferred sale to allow them to remain in the home until the children reach a certain age.
  • Challenging Valuation: Disputes over the home’s value can arise if your ex-spouse believes it has been undervalued. They may request a new appraisal or provide evidence to contest the valuation.
  • Financial Inability: Your ex-spouse could claim financial hardship or inability to afford alternative housing, arguing that selling the home would leave them in a precarious situation.
  • Refusal to Cooperate: Even without legitimate grounds, your ex-spouse can refuse to cooperate by stalling paperwork, not maintaining the property, or otherwise making the sale difficult.

While it is possible to force the sale of the marital home in Arizona, your ex-spouse may attempt to prevent it through legal challenges, appeals, or non-cooperation. 

Stephanie Villalobos, LP

Contact a Family Law Legal Paraprofessional

If your ex refuses to sell the marital home and you’re facing challenges dividing property, the family law legal paraprofessionals at De Novo Law can help. With their comprehensive understanding of Arizona divorce law and property division, they can guide you through the legal process with tailored strategies that protect your rights.

For more information about our services or to schedule a consultation, you can also reach us directly at (480) 725-2200 .

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