On Conflict: When One Spouse Doesn’t Want to Sell

Divorces almost always involve conflict of some sort. I have heard many people laughingly say that the term “amicable divorce” is an oxymoron. Conflict can appear and disappear in many cases, and sometimes it’s always there. It’s always nice when the principals can put aside their differences in joint discussions on the sale of the home, but sometimes I have to communicate separately because they can’t even be in the same room together.

While conflict comes in many forms and flavors, one of the common points of contention is when one party doesn’t want to sell. I can understand this. When I got divorced, I stayed in the house and my ex wife moved out. I actually sold her the house she’d move into, and when our children wanted more space (that is, no more shred bedrooms), I sold that property and represented her in the next purchase. In that respect, we were rare. But my point is that I wanted to stay in the house, and I did.

But merely wanting to stay is not enough. Buying out the other partner is the most straightforward way of staying in the home for the remaining party, as it takes the deed and mortgage out of the other’s name. In this scenario, there should never be a conflict. 

However, sometimes one spouse doesn’t want to move and cannot afford to buy the other out. In some cases they don’t even want to divorce or at least divorce yet. The old adage here is that “the match defines your path.” Asking one spouse to wait for the other to get their finances in order to take over the property alone is not often feasible, and in extreme cases a court will mandate the sale despite the wishes of the remaining party. That’s not a battle anyone wants to fight. 

It’s rough to say, but if you can’t buy the other out and they aren’t comfortable with waiting for you while their name remains on the mortgage and deed, a reality check is in order. I cannot advocate for one side over the other, as I have to be Switzerland in these matters, but when the math doesn’t work, selling, as unpalatable as it may be for some, is the only option. 

I will add this as a prospective silver lining: I have heard from many unwilling sellers that, in retrospect, it was the right move to move on in life.

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