What If One Spouse Wants to Sell the House After the Divorce and the Other Doesn’t?

Q: My husband left three years ago and is continuing to pay the mortgage. I want to sell [the house] so I can move, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t have enough money to buy me out or the credit to refinance it on his own. What do I do? ~ Brenda

Brenda, we are sorry that you have found yourself in this position. It is not uncommon in a divorce for one spouse to want to keep the house. If Spouse A agrees to let Spouse B keep the house, then the easiest thing to do is for Spouse B to buy out Spouse A. This can usually be done by Spouse B refinancing the home and pulling out enough equity during the refinance to buy out Spouse A. (Here are more ways how one spouse can keep the house after a divorce.)

However, the real world doesn’t often work so smoothly. As in your case, many single ex-spouses cannot afford to make the mortgage payments on their own. If they don’t have sufficient credit and income, they will not be able to qualify for a refinance, which means they can’t buy out their ex-spouse and take that spouse off the mortgage and the property deed.

Brenda, you may be tempted to let things stay as they are since your spouse is paying your mortgage. That would be a bad idea. If your name is on the mortgage of the property, then it will likely be very difficult for you to get approved for a new mortgage if you wanted to buy another home. Your mortgage responsibilities will also be reflected on your credit report, which could make it difficult for you to be approved for future loans, such as a car loan. Additionally, if your spouse were to stop making mortgage payments on the house, your credit would be damaged along with his!

Finally, if the house is considered marital property, then you are likely entitled to a portion of the equity. That’s money that can help you start over or to use as a down payment on your next home.

In your case, it sounds like you and your husband are still legally married. My first bit of advice would be to initiate divorce proceedings if you are ready to dissolve your marriage so that you can divide your estate. You can give your husband the chance to buy you out of your share of the house during your divorce negotiations. (If you don’t have a lot of money, then I would advise considering divorce mediation).) If your husband cannot buy you out, then you can ask a family law judge to compel a sale. This will take some time and may require you to hire an attorney to help you with the motion, but if you can get your share of the home’s equity back, then it will be money well spent!

It is often best to consult a divorce attorney in your state so that you can understand the state laws that pertain to your case. If you are worried about the cost of an attorney, a great place to get more information about divorce is to attend a Second Saturday Divorce Workshop in your area, which often features advice and presentations by divorce attorneys, financial advisors, and other divorce experts.

73 thoughts on “What If One Spouse Wants to Sell the House After the Divorce and the Other Doesn’t?”

  1. my husband left me in DEC.and. moved out of our house. he.payed mortgage for Jan and Feb couldn’t pay any more i,ve been paying the mortgage since then… we put house up for sale two weeks ago…since he walked out on me and hasn’t paid for the mortgage ..how long before its considered abandonment and what can i do can i keep the house if hes not paying mortgage and he left me..

    1. I’m not an attorney and I’m not familiar with the laws of your state, and so I have no idea what constitutes abandonment, nor whether it has anything to do with anything legally. If you want to keep the house you’ll need to pay the mortgage, or you’ll lose it, so that’s the first thing to do. And then you’ll need to figure out how to pay him for his share of the equity in the home, if there is any.

      1. This house im living in is not the matrimonial home the matrimonial home was sold when at that time he was interdicted i used the money to buy this house .can someone stay with me in it .we are still in a separation case in court thanks .

  2. Husband filed for divorce, we live in the home I purchased before marriage. His name is not on the house, will I have to pay him anything ?

  3. We have a mortgage free home, have been married for 48 yrs, and plan on divorcing. My husband is retired and has VA benefits that allow him to purchase a house with no down payment. I have a small social income and work part time. Can I ask for our house, by buying him out?

    1. If you have the means to buy him out of the house, and he doesn’t object, then you can buy him out. If he also wants the house, you’ll have to ask an attorney who gets first right to buy the other out in your state.

  4. My husband and I divorce is final, in the agreement he had 14 days to decide to sale the house or buy me out, he decided to buy me out. The question is, how long does he has to send me my half? If it’s up to him he would never do it if he isn’t told by the judge. What’s my next steps?

  5. My divorce was final almost 14 days ago. Court ordered house to be sold. My ex says why should we sell it and said we ( my kids and myself) can stay as long as we want. Is this true? He has made no attempt in helping me list the home and when I bring it up he asks why do we have to sell it.

  6. The house we live in was brought by me in an attempt to leave my husband. He talked me into trying to make the marriage work. So he ended up moving into the new house with me. His house he had before the marriage, my house that his name is not on I brought after the marriage during a separation. His name isn’t on the deed or loan. I now want a divorce, he is still living in my House. If I sell does he get half. If I stay do I have to buy him out? In NC.

    1. Even during a separation, the both of you are still legally married. So anything you purchase, I.E. a home, he may still be entitled to something there.

  7. including agent fees’ for both sides are normal, when buy her out? My ex said that if I buy her out, then why she needs to pay the agent fee. In a way, it makes sense but what if when I sell the house later maybe, then I have to pay fees anyway.

    1. If there are no broker fees being charged, as when one spouse buys out the other, then there are no actual costs to divide. If the two of you agree to reduce the value of the home by the fees that would be paid if it were being sold, you can certainly do that. But it is likely that there would be no reduction for fees that are not actually being paid if you went to court.

  8. What if you bought a house while married and house was bought from a settlement after losing tour daughter that doesn’t belong to said husband and your first on the deed and don’t wanna lose your house but don’t wanna sell it and he has no income to buy you out and being the only one in home working me and paying all bills I can’t afford to buy him out what should I do I don’t wanna lose my house that was bought from my daughters settlement

  9. I have been divorced for eight years. In the divorce I foolishly agreed to pay mortgage and taxes. While he payed only child support until my youngest one graduated college which was over a year ago. Now the house is on the market to sell. Is there any way I could go back to court to try to change him from getting 50% off the sale of the house?

    1. I’m guessing that after 8 years, there would be no way to change your divorce agreement without his consent. But I’m not an attorney and I don’t know the laws of your state, so you’ll need legal advice to determine that.

  10. I have a house that i’m the sole owner of and purchased prior to getting married but recently split up, Could the courts force me to sell the house if i didn’t want to as part of the split being that there is kids involved?

  11. Franklin Phillips

    From South Africa. My wife divorcing and want to buy me out. Only stayed in new house for 2years. I want to sell and dont want her to buy me out. We will make a loss if she agree to sell. Can the court force me to be paid out by my ex wife? My intention is to sell and both of us walk away with the loss.
    Can see overide my decision as the bond comes off her salary and she earns more than me.

  12. What happens if the judge orders us both to vacate and sell our marital home and divide the proceeds but no one wants to buy the house?
    Who will have to pay the mortgage/insurance/taxes and upkeep until the house sells?

    1. That’s a good question. If the judge didn’t say and you can’t decide between you, you may have to ask the court for further guidance. I’m guessing the court will tell you to lower the price until you attract a buyer, but that’s just a guess.

  13. If it were up to my ex he would have remained married just so he wouldn’t have to pay lawyer fees. We are both on the deed and mortgage (which he pays) and I contribute. The divorce settlement states that we were to sell the house when my son graduated high school. My son is now 26 years old and I want to move on with my life and get my share of the house. He threathens to stop paying the mortgage because he does not want to sell and I cannot afford to buy him out. He has already declared bankruptcy in the past. Do I have to hire a lawyer again the get him out or can I go straight to the courts?

    1. You can represent yourself in court. But whether that’s a good idea is another matter. If you represent yourself in court you’ll need to learn the laws of your state regarding the issues at hand, plus all the rules of your local court and how the paperwork should be filed and by when. If you are ready to take that on, then by all means proceed without an attorney. But before you do that, you might consult and attorney to see what legal ground you have to stand on.

  14. I’m a Realtor. My client and her husband finalized their divorce three weeks a go. Her husband is a bipolar and not making any payments on their house. The wife and two kids just moved to an appointment for their security. She wants to sell the house but her husband doesn’t allow to list the house. She asked me to help them. She knows that her ex husband doesn’t pay the mortgage and she doesn’t want to loose the house. Please advise!!!!

    1. It depends on what the divorce says. If her husband was awarded the house in the divorce, then she probably has no say over it now. If she was awarded the house, she should be able to do whatever she believes is best. If they were both awarded the house jointly, then she will need to get legal advice at to whether she can force the sale.

  15. Me and my ex girlfriend have a house we have been apart now 11 years and I’m trying to sale the property, but she is not returning any of my phone call, nor any of the realtor emails. She initial was okay with the sale of the property but sine then she has been MIA. Is there anything that I can do legally to make the sale go thru or am I stuck at her mercy. Any advise would help thank you in advance.

  16. My Ex husband would like to buy me out of our home that the judge has ordered to be sold.
    The house was appraised last year. He is offering me $26,000.00 less then the appraised value, using realtor fees as the difference. A realtor is not involved. Why would I pay his portion of the realtor fees? Should realtor fees be included. Thank you!

    1. It depends on the laws of your state, but I would imagine that since a real estate agent is not involved and those expenses won’t be incurred, those fees wouldn’t be deducted from the value. That said, if he decides not to buy you out, then the house would be sold and those fees likely would be incurred.

  17. Getting ready to divorce, husband wants the house but won’t be able to refinance due to credit. He says he will pay the mortgage and the kids and I can live here until our oldest is ready to move out on her own. But I don’t want our finances intertwined at all, it’s been hell for years so I really need this to be over. Would we be able to make an agreement in our divorce that I “rent” the house from him and instead of him having to give me half of the equity he could give me alimony instead? There’s gotta be a way to end my marriage but allow him to keep the house even though our credit isn’t good.

  18. My husband and i divorced 10 years ago and he agreed to buy me out. He is still staying in the house and has not paid me out. He does not have any intention of buying me out. What should i do

    1. Forgive me for giving my two cents but if you are responsible for paying the mortgage and taxes its because you still live there? Correct? In my case, the same thing happened. My now ex wife wanted me to pay the mortgage and taxes but I don’t think that’s fair. I was the one displaced and will no longer get to enjoy the home. So why should I be having to pay for a place I’m no longer living at if I’m also now having to pay for an apartment which coincidentally is more than the mortgage payment? No, not fair and I wouldn’t pay it either. I do provide child support as in your case that covers the mortgage and still leaves her extra but that’s it. Unless I buy my son things of my own volition. Besides, I couldn’t afford paying a house plus an apartment plus services on the apartment.

  19. I divorced in june 2018 and left. I had no job and no income. I had to move back in with ex. House was awarded to both. She wants me to sign a quit deed and I said no. Can she force me out? All i want is my share. We were been married 26 yrs. Can she find me in contempt of court?

    1. If the house was awarded to both of you, it may be that either one of you can force a sale, if the other won’t buy them out. An attorney in your state could tell you for sure. If there were court orders that said you’d do something and you didn’t, then I suppose the court could find you in contempt.

  20. My wife “won” the house in my divorce.
    She was supposed to finance the house a year and a half ago but has yet.
    I have 2 questions.
    1) I live in California. Does she have to simply refinance the existing loans, or does she have to buy the house from me at market value?
    2) When I’m tired of this and sell the house at market value, how much of that money will be hers? The amount financed or all of the equity as well?

    1. Whatever your divorce agreement provides is what she is required to do. If she was supposed to make a payment to you per that agreement, then that is what she must do. If you sell the house against court orders, that will be a problem. You’ll need to get the agreement modified before you take such action.

  21. I have been ordered in the divorce to sale the house and to split equity. And I have to pay mortgage until it sells. The problem is my ex won’t move out and won’t sign the real estate papers to sell the house. My real estate agent tells me the house can’t go on the market without his signature and he has to be at closing to sign also. I have no clue what to do.

  22. My sister has left her husband, he has essentially abandoned their house and it is very evident. There is substance abuse involved. They are not legally divorced, but at this point he is refusing to cooperate in any way. He will not agree to put the house on the market, he will not sign divorce papers, he certainly needs psychiatric help, but my sister pays 90% of the payment even though she doesn’t live there. Do you see a way she can put the house on the market without his agreeing?

    1. She can talk to a real estate agent, but if his name is on the house they will probably say he has to sign. She can file for divorce and then ask the judge to order the house sold, and order him to sign the paperwork.

  23. The Title of the house is in both our names but the mortgage is only with her. We are not married. We are splitting up and now would like to either sell or buy the house off her. My question is I paid for large renovations which increased the value of the home by $80,000. The Renovations cost me $10,000 but she still has not paid me for any of it. If we sell the house can retrieve my Renovations costs once we sell or what can I do to make sure I get my share of all the renovations?

    Also She never paid for any of the oil, water, Landscaping in the 3 years we have lived there. Can I also add my receipts up for these types of maintenance done on the home and request to be paid half either before or after we sell?

    1. The two of you can make any agreement that you want. You can talk to someone who knows whether your state has laws that would cover the situation you describe. We are not attorneys and don’t have any knowledge of the civil law of your state.

  24. Hello my ex wife and I divorce was finalized about two years ago we own a house without a mortgage in Indiana which I currently live in. I’ve been paying all of the bills, repairs and taxes on home since then. The home was due to be sold in our divorce but my ex wife and I decided since then that I’ll keep it and buy her out but I have had a few things transpire since then where I haven’t been able to pay her. Back in July of this year she told me she didn’t want anything to do with the home and she were taking her name off of the home, last week she called me and told me she’s selling the house. Can she do this and what can I do to protect myself I’m not in the position to move and get another home also I have our daughter over the weekend which will puts me in a situation to no longer be able to keep her during the weekend.

    1. Your written divorce agreement says the house would be sold. You then negotiated an agreement that you would buy her out and keep it, but you have not done so. If you are now in a position to buy her out, great. If not, then the written agreement says the house will be sold.

  25. Hi..
    My husband has decided he wants to separate and I am devastated. I don’t want this but have no choice. He wants us to sell the house and split the money. Can I make him pay the realtor fees from his share? I don’t want to sell the house this is all his Choice so I don’t see why I should have to pay for it…

    1. I get what you are saying about the injustice you are feeling in all of this. Of course, you can make any request of him that you like, and if he agrees, that’s great. If he doesn’t agree, then you’ll need to find out whether the laws of your state support your position. If they do, then you can demand that they come from his share. But if the law says they are divided equally, then that’s what you’ll be stuck with unless he agrees otherwise.

  26. Me and my boyfriend brought a house under my name, he paid off the house and we had a quick claim deed to add his name and a trust under his daughter’s name. I would like to move out and leave him the house. Do I still have the rights on the house? If something happen to me what’s going to happen with the house.

  27. I have been divorced for 2 years. My ex lives in the house. I want to sell it. He said he would buy me out but doesnt have credit to get the loan. Our divorce papers say “house to be sold”. Do I have to take him to court to g err t my money?

  28. Hello Ginta,
    Question:
    My wife and I are considering divorce.
    She owns the house which is fully paid for and is in her name as I signed a quit claim deed many years ago.
    She has several properties in her name where the kids and her live.
    I live part time in the house and part time in the other property.
    Can I stop sale of house even though I signed quit claim? Because if she sells if I have no place to live.

  29. I just bought a house with my fiancé she lie and got me arrest to get me out the house and keep it , I will like her to buy me out but she making it difficult what can Ido I been out the house four month and she has paid the mortgage 3 month by her self we have had the house for one year and both our names is on the house. What should I do

  30. My husband refinanced the home in previous marriage, and has only his name on the deed. i just bought a house and have only my name on the deed (we ve been married for two and a half years with no kids) because he is emotionally, verbally abusive, cheats and will not tolerate my family, he insisted on refurbishing my new house and has contributed to it. i am considering a divorce. will he have a share on my house even though he still has his? (we have 2 houses with each of our names on them)

    1. The laws differ from state to state, so you’ll need to check the laws of your state to find the answer to this question. In some states, if marital funds were used to buy or improve the home or pay down the mortgage, the other spouse would have an interest even if the home is in the name of the other spouse.

  31. It was a mediation agreement that determined the house be sold in a matter of time and if it wasn’t sold that I the wife could have a handler to come in and sell it. I allowed him to move back in briefly after having stayed rent free at my apartment and he still has not sold the house and I have been telling him I need to hurry and be do r and he is procrastinating and said he wants to do things to improve so we get the most money but I think either way he will find a way to screw me out of the only thing that was awarded to me to begin with. Should I just get a realtor or put it as listed for sale by owner based on. Market value or what? My friend said it may be time to go back to the lawyer but that will cost me $5000 as they are not on retainer anymore. What do I do?

  32. My wife and I are in the middle of a divorce in Colorado. I have remained in the family home with one of our sons and pay all of the house bills (as well as temporary maintenance). During a settlement conference two days ago, wife insisted on a home value $50,000 higher than the home is worth. We have two cash offers, the county assessor assessment, and an appraisal that support my position. She has a value on Zillow that supports her position. My attorney suggests that the judge will order the home sold. It seems that my options are either to pay her an additional $25,000 (her half of the non-existent $50,000 value she asserts) or sell my children’s family home just to prove what the home is worth. That sounds insane to me.

    1. Zillow is not an appraisal company, and that value would never hold up as being accurate. Ask her to agree on an appraiser who can value the home for both of you. Or petition the court to appoint an appraiser to value the home, if you can’t agree and that’s something that your attorney says the court has the power to do.

  33. Hi Ginita, I love in TX. I have been divorced for 4 yrs. I live in a house that has my ex husbands name on the mortgage but was shared property when we divorced. In our decree, it states that have to mutually agree to sell the house. Now, he is not agreeing to a sale (to keep the children and I from moving out of state, which we already agreed that I could 3 yrs after the divorce). Can I go back to court to force him to sell?

    1. I’m not an attorney and I’m not familiar with the laws of your state, so I can’t tell you what you can go to court for. But it seems as though there should be a way to request the house be sold if neither of you wants to live there and make the payments.

  34. Can I move to another state then file for divorce? If so, will my spouse have to come to my new area to fight the divorce? Or will I have to go back to the state I moved from?

    1. If you qualify to file for divorce under your new state’s requirements, you can file for divorce there. But if your spouse filed for divorce first in the state he resides in, then it will probably take place in that state.

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