Can I sue my ex-husband for half the equity in our house?

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Can I sue my ex-husband for half the equity in our house?

My ex-husband and I own a home together. I went bankrupt so I’m not on the

note but I’m still on the deed. He keeps saying that he is going to buy me out but

he never follows through. My divorce papers just say that my ex-husband will remain in the house. We had a verbal agreement that I will get half the proceeds when the house was sold. It has been 9 years and I would like to know what my legal rights are.

Asked on October 1, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

An oral agreement--that is the correct term, not "verbal," for an unwritten agreement--for a future sale and share of the proceeds of the house is not enforceable: in your state, under what is known as the "statute of frauds," an agreement which was not specified to be performed within one year must be in writing to be enforceable. Since he was not obligated to sell in one year, the agreement had to be in writing.
As a general matter, however, if two people own real estate together and cannot agree as to what to do with it, one of them can bring a legal action (lawsuit) traditionally called an action "for partition" (your state may have a different term for it) in which you ask the court to order the sale of the real estate and the proceeds (after paying the mortgage, any liens, and cost of sale) be divided among the owners. This is the law's recourse or solution for owners where one wants the money from the property and the other wants to keep the property--it forces a sale, so they each get their share and go their separate ways.
HOWEVER, you are also bound by the terms of your divorce: you cannot force a sale if it's already been determined that your husband gets to stay in/live in the home, since a sale of the property would violate that existing settlement or court determination.
You are advised to bring a copy of the divorce papers to a lawyer to review with you, to understand your rights and options.


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