For many people, their most valuable asset is their home. And if you are going through a divorce, your home can become a point of real contention. Should you sell the house or not? And if you don’t sell, who gets to keep it? Perhaps the biggest question of all is, “Can the court force us to sell the house?” The short answer is Yes. But as you might guess, it’s not that simple. So here is a brief explanation of a court order sale of house in divorce.
Why Courts Have the Authority to Order the Sale of a House
Texas is a community property state. This means that, in most cases, any property acquired by the couple during their marriage is owned equally by both spouses. Ideally, the two spouses are able to reach an agreement on the marital property by working with their attorneys.
But sometimes, the parties cannot agree. One spouse may want to sell the house, while the other wants to stay in the house until the kids have finished school. Or perhaps both parties think they should get to keep the family home. In these cases, the court may get involved.
The court’s goal is to achieve “equity.” This means they want the divorce terms to be fundamentally fair to both parties. The Texas Family Code gives judges considerable authority on how to achieve that fairness. Thus, courts have the authority to order marital property to be transferred from one party to the other. They also can order the sale of the real estate before the divorce is finalized.
The Court May Order the Sale of a House to Help the Couple
Finances are another possible reason for a court-ordered sale of a house in a divorce. For example, if the primary breadwinner loses his or her job, the couple may be financially stressed. The couple may be falling behind on mortgage payments and facing foreclosure.
The couple may tell the judge that they do not have a reasonable expectation that their financial prospects will improve any time soon. may order the house to be sold before the divorce in order to help the couple get as much money as possible from the sale.
The court can also retain authority over the property for a set period of time. For example, the couple may agree that one spouse is going to keep the house and pay off the other for the value of the home or refinance the house so that the ex’s name is not on the mortgage.
In the event the person remaining in the home does not fulfill the settlement terms within a designated amount of time, the court can order the sale of the house.
Can a Court Order Sale of a House be Ignored?
No. The terms of a divorce decree, including decisions about the family home, are final. In fact, if the court has ordered the sale of the house, the parties cannot later agree to have one person buy it from the other.
There is one option. In a divorce, both parties have 30 days to appeal a family court decision in Texas. This includes not only real estate but decisions regarding other community property and custody of the children.
You Can Avoid a Court Order Sale of a House in a Divorce
As we have seen, judges have great authority in deciding the terms of a divorce. And their ruling is basically final. However, it’s relatively easy to avoid a court order sale of your house in a divorce. All you have to do is come to an agreement with your spouse.
In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse are in full agreement about the key issues. The agreements include custody, child support, and of course, division of assets.
Planning for the Sale of Your House in a Divorce
If you and your spouse agree to sell the house, you will need to be very specific. It’s not enough just to say, “We’re going to sell it.” Following are some details the two of you will need to resolve:
- How much will you ask for the house? What if you can’t agree?
- Will we use a Realtor? How will we choose one?
- Which one of us will be the primary contact?
- What process will we use when an offer is received?
- How long will we wait before reducing the price? How much will we lower the price?
If you are looking at the sale of a house in a divorce, no detail is too small. You may even try to draft the description of the property in advance. It’s also a good idea to develop a contingency plan. For example, what happens if one of the two spouses becomes very sick? Can the other party proceed on his or her own? As for when is the best time to sell, we encourage you to read our blog Is It Better to Sell Your House Before or After a Divorce? – Sabelhaus + Lynch, PLLC (sabelhaus-lynch.com)
An Attorney Can Help You Avoid Court Intervention
You can sell your house without going to court. You also can do your divorce without an attorney. But we understand divorce can be harder than that—sometimes, much harder. So while it’s admirable for you to think “My spouse and I can work everything out on our own,” sometimes, it just isn’t feasible.
This is particularly true when it comes to questions about property division and child custody arrangements. Both issues can get very complicated, as well as very emotional.
An experienced family law attorney will be very familiar with these situations and can help you anticipate some of the issues that may arise. For example, he or she can help you draft the agreement regarding your community property. A skilled divorce lawyer can help you and your spouse come to mutually satisfactory terms. They also can help you avoid making a mistake or having an unpleasant outcome—such as a court order sale of a house in a divorce.
Fort Worth Family Law Attorneys with Experience and Expertise
Let the award-winning Fort Worth family law attorneys at Sabelhaus+Lynch law firm help you prepare your case. We have extensive experience in Texas family law, including cases involving homes and other marital assets. Whether you are expecting your divorce to be simple or difficult, we are ready to serve you. For a no-cost, 30-minute case consultation, contact us today or call 817-668-5879.