The family home is often a source of much debate in California divorce cases. State law generally treats real estate obtained by one or both spouses during the marriage as community property to be divided equally upon divorce. Spouses have the power, however, to make their own arrangements via settlement agreements. Courts also have significant authority to enforce those agreements, including by forcing the sale of a home. California’s Second District Court of Appeals recently took up one of those cases.
Wife filed for divorce from Husband in September 2010, following 11 years of marriage. She’d purchased a $640,000 home during the marriage. Typically, that home would be considered community property to be split evenly between the spouses in the event of divorce. As part of a marital settlement agreement, however, Wife agreed to give Husband the property. She signed a quitclaim deed transferring the property to Husband and agreed to pay him $2,500 a month in arrearages on the home mortgage. Husband was responsible for removing Wife’s name from the mortgage, making the monthly mortgage payments, and paying property taxes. The agreement also stated that both parties intended for the home to be sold.
A trial court granted the divorce and ordered the former spouses to abide by the terms of the agreement.
Wife went back to court two years later and asked a judge to order Husband to sell the home. She said she had moved out of the home, filed the quitclaim deed, and paid Husband the first arrearages payment. In response, according to Wife, Husband cashed the check and didn’t apply it to the mortgage. She said he didn’t make any mortgage payments and did nothing to remove her name from the loan. Husband said he wasn’t able to sell the house because it had fallen into disrepair and asserted that no bank would offer him a refinance loan. Nevertheless, the trial court ordered him to sell the property. When that didn’t happen, a second court appointed a clerk to issue a quitclaim deed transferring full ownership of the home back to Wife.
Affirming the decision on appeal, the Second District said the trial judge was authorized to force Husband to transfer the home to Wife. The Court noted that the agreement stated that it was the spouses’ intention to sell the home. Meanwhile, the trial court’s original judgment ordered the former couple “to perform any and all other acts, necessary or convenient to carry out the terms or intent of this Judgment,” and it authorized them to request an appointment of a clerk if the opposing party failed to do so,” according to the Second District.
Property division is just one of the many issues that can come up in a divorce case. If you’re considering a divorce or are grappling with child support and other issues in California, contact San Jose divorce attorney John S. Yohanan. With more than 30 years of experience, Mr. Yohanan is an accomplished property division attorney who has helped a number of clients resolve a wide variety of marital disputes. Call our office at (408) 297-0700 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
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