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Separation and Divorce Considering ending your marriage? Going through a divorce? Let us know!

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Old 18th September 2017, 8:27 PM   #1
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Smile Post Divorce, Kept House, New Deal?

Hello All,

This is my first post so go easy on me, please.

I filed for divorce in 2012 and it was final in 2015 after much mediation. I moved out in 2012 and never went back to our house. She's been living there ever since. We decided to keep the house, and we've made our final payment last month.

Looking back I'd say it was a mistake to keep the house as joint tenants, but I looked at it as an "investment." It has tripled in value since we've bought it (1997). We simply cannot get along or agree about anything concerning the house. She does not pay rent, but has made half the mortgage payment (now paid in full) and pays all the utilities and cable bills on her own.

I've been renting a room with a friend since I've moved out. I feel she continuously crosses boundaries with me and expects me to be at the house every weekend to do maintenance of some sort. She's become a hoarder and I feel she's become accustomed to the idea that I'm still part of her life. She's not moved on personally, and can't stand that I go out on dates on occasion. I don't want her in any way in my life anymore. I thought we could have a fair business deal with the house, but it's become unbearable and unreasonable. I'm just done and it's not worth the stress to be a "business" partner with her.

My question is simple: Can I force her to negotiate through the courts with me concerning what to do with the house?

My thoughts are that we have clear choices: (1) She buys me out. (2) I buy her out. (3) We sell the house and go our separate ways, (4) We keep the house, she moves out, and we rent it out to another party, or (5) I buy her out and she stays but pays me fair rental value (not my favorite idea but would have stipulations).

Any comments from folks with experience are welcome. I have Googled the question and see that there such a thing as a Partition Law, but am not clear if that applies to my case.

Thanks very much!
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Old 18th September 2017, 8:39 PM   #2
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What does the divorce agreement say about revisiting the terms of your shared property?
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Old 18th September 2017, 11:32 PM   #3
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Why would you have ever agreed to shared ownership of a house you do not reside? You basically have agreed to let her live in the house until she decides to sell it. Unless there is something about sale in the decree, I think you are stuck.
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Old 19th September 2017, 2:42 AM   #4
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Yes, agreeing to keep the house in joint names after a divorce is a very poor idea, as you've found out the hard way. You've really shot yourself in the foot here.

If there's no sales trigger clause in the divorce agreement then I think your options will be very limited. You see those 5 options above but she also sees (6) keep things exactly as they are. She is now living in the house mortgage and rent free. Why would she want to change that? Even if the court forces a sale she could be uncooperative in the process, refuse reasonable offers, and "discourage" buyers, leading to a lengthy and expensive sales process. I think the only way to change her mind is to make her an offer too good to refuse.

You may be able to convince her to do (1) she buys you out, if you give it to her cheap enough. Or (2) she lets you buy her out, if you offer enough for her to relocate mortgage free. Or (3) to sell, if it's worth her while (you may need to give her more than half). (4) forget it, and (5) forget it too, both of these are leaving ties between you and will come back to bite you one day.

The best course of action would be to see a lawyer. Take your divorce decree and all paperwork with you, and ask what your realistic options are, and how you can achieve a favourable outcome if she doesn't want to move.
"Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so."
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Last edited by PegNosePete; 19th September 2017 at 2:44 AM..
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Old 21st September 2017, 2:50 PM   #5
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I would go back to your original divorce lawyer . Surely he would have advised you to sever the joint tenancy? I can't advise as I'm in the UK, but at any time either one of the joint tenants can sever the joint tenancy. You do not need the consent of the other. Also, wouldn't this be complicated further if either one of you died as the others share would automatically pass to the surviving tenant and not as per yours or her Will?

I agree. You need a fresh start and that's never going to happen whilst she has one over you on this house.
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Old 22nd September 2017, 10:38 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by PegNosePete View Post

The best course of action would be to see a lawyer. Take your divorce decree and all paperwork with you, and ask what your realistic options are, and how you can achieve a favourable outcome if she doesn't want to move.

^^^^Ditto ^^^^^^ and good luck!
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Old 26th September 2017, 2:28 PM   #7
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Post Clarification


Thank you for the excellent comments. Yes, I'm fully aware that I did not make a good final divorce decree decision. I just wanted out of our marriage.

Please let me clarify a few points. I self-filed for divorce and we went to mediation three times before coming to an agreement. There are no trigger clauses for a future sale and I was aware of that. I'm not opposed to keeping the house since real estate is very expensive in my city and the property value has about tripled since we bought the house exactly 20 years ago. The final payment was made last month. We'll now have insurance and taxes to split between us.

She lives fully in the house like I mentioned so she is responsible for her utilities. We've agreed to split the house maintenance 50/50.

I've not mentioned that she is exhibiting a mental illness. She's become a hoarder and is not picking up anything from inside the house. A few of my friends have noted from a few years ago that they thought something was "odd" about her. I know the reasons for divorcing her were not only because we were not on the same page about anything and no longer had any romantic regard for one another, but that she had to control every move I made and I was never listened to nor my opinion considered. However, she's used the joint house ownership as an excuse to keep me coming over so that she feels she can still be near me. It's inappropriate since we're divorced and only keeps her stuck and not moving forward.

Her own brother told me recently that she's strange and has done very little to make herself available to her aging parents or respond to his emails. He's shouldering the load for their elderly parents welfare who live alone in their own home a few miles away.

I've brought up two points: no trigger clause and mental illness. To clarify more, should one of us pass away the property reverts to the other partner. We made no revisions to our deed and it has remained the same as originally written.

I'm going to propose the choices I've spelled out from my original post to see where we get with that. Otherwise, I will be forced to see an attorney for more options. I was curious if mental illness can be a factor. I am not calling my ex as "crazy," but she clearly has an issue. I do want her to seek help, but that's up to her. She has no remaining friends, by the way. They've all left out of exhaustion. One friend of mine says she exhibits "Borderline personality" disorder. I do see some of those traits, but I'm certainly no expert.

Thank you for any thoughts!
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Old 26th September 2017, 8:04 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by JacksonBear View Post
One friend of mine says she exhibits "Borderline personality" disorder. I do see some of those traits, but I'm certainly no expert. Thank you for any thoughts!
Jackson, you don't have to be an expert to spot strong BPD traits. There is nothing subtle about temper tantrums, always being "The Victim," and lack of impulse control. Hence, spotting strong BPD symptoms is easy. What is hard is determining whether they are so severe as to satisfy 100% of the diagnostic criteria for having full-blown BPD. Only a professional can do that.

Yet, for purposes of deciding whether a person would make a good spouse, it really doesn't matter whether she meets 100% of the criteria. A woman meeting only 70% or 80% may be nearly as impossible to live with as one satisfying 100%. If you are interested in identifying these symptoms, I suggest you take a quick look at my list of 18 BPD Warning Signs to see if most sound very familiar. If so, I would suggest you also read my more detailed description of them at my posts in Rebel's Thread.

As to the hoarding, Jessie Sholl states that "Hoarding is almost always accompanied by a comorbid condition--depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder are among the most common." Sholl is the author of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding. See Compulsive Hoarding.
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Old 26th September 2017, 9:33 PM   #9
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Can you sweeten the deal a bit and appeal to her sense of greed to get her to change the joint ownership to tenancy of the commons? If so, some options open up. Since the divorce is water under the bridge and considering her issues I'd likely not seek to revisit that in any way but rather move forward with what is in the here and now, so check with a real estate and/or estate planning attorney about your options. Their initial consults are generally free.

My rule of thumb is 1-5% of imputed value in legal fees. So, if your interest is 100K, then 1-5K in legal fees.

Myself, I'd likely get my interest into a tenancy of the commons, quietly place it into a land trust then sell my interest in the trust to an investor. That respects what you've shared about her and potential fear of abandonment ruling any interactions. She's got a pretty cushy deal right now so things are calm. That could change in an instant. Good luck!
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