Does a spouse have a right to reimbursement forthe improvementreal property?

I had only been married a year and we bought a duplex together. The agreement was he would pay the down payment and I would remodel and buy the materials. He then wanted a divorce. Even though I paid half of everything while I was remodeling. He also gets the money on the other apartment. I want him to pay me back for my labor and materials since everything I invested in is all his.

Asked on March 20, 2011 under Family Law, Utah


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There is no hard and fast answer. In a divorce, the couple's total assets and obligations will be divided amongst them, subject however to (1) any prenuptual or other agreements between them; and (2) any previously owned assets or property which a spouse brought with him or her (which remain that spouse's property). In addition, the court will take cognizance of relative incomes and contributions to various expenses in both property distribution and in setting any spousal support (e.g. alimony).

Furthermore, anything owned jointly--for example, real estate owned by both spouses--will be divided pretty much 50-50 between them. So if you both own the duplex, you would normally get half the equity, but subject to modification by the exact terms of any enforceable agreement between you and also possibly by your relative contributions to it.

So the short answer is, you very likely have some rights to or interest in the property, but the exact amount is dependent on the circumstances. You should immediately retain and start consulting with a family or matrimonial law attorney, who can evaluate the facts of the case and any agreements and advise you both of your rights to reimbursement or compensation or support as well as advise you, going forward, what to do to maximize what you would receive in a divorce. There is alot at stake and no reason to not get a lawyer helping you.

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