When couples divorce in New Jersey, the law instructs judges to divide the marital property equitably. Liquid assets, such as cash in a bank account, are easily divisible.
However, other types of property, such as the family home, are not. Can a judge force the sale of a family home to settle a divorce?
Equitable distribution of real estate
Real estate that a couple acquires during a marriage is usually considered marital property, even if only one spouse’s name is on the deed. Real estate is usually divided between the spouses in one of two ways. Either one spouse keeps the property and buys out the other spouse’s interest in that property or the couple sells the property and divides the proceeds equally.
Court authority to force a real estate sale
A court can order the sale of real estate to facilitate equitable distribution of its value. However, this would usually only happen if not forcing the sale is likely to result in an adverse event, such as a lender foreclosing on the property. In most cases, the spouses can negotiate an agreement if one party wants to retain the home.
The family home is often a point of contention among divorcing spouses. If there are minor children involved, where the children will live factors into the judge’s decision about awarding the property. Most of the time, a spouse can retain the family home by agreeing to cede some other asset that is equal to the other spouse’s share of the value instead of selling the home. However, there are rare circumstances where a judge may order the sale of the home.