What rights does a second husband have to equity in a house that his wife owned proir to theirmarriage?

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What rights does a second husband have to equity in a house that his wife owned proir to theirmarriage?

I am a realtor and have a woman client who owned a house in prior to a 2nd marriage. She also has children from a prior marriage. She is trying to sell the home after moving out-of-state with her new husband. It is now rented but rent does not fully cover the mortgage. She does not work now so second husband has been helping with the mortgage payment. He is abusive and controlling and expects to get some of the equity upon sale. Does he have rights to some of the money and does he have to sign any papers to close? Women used to be able to own property in MI withno dower rights to husband.

Asked on November 3, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If the husband is not on the title of the home, he does not own it and has no legal right to a share of proceeds; his signature (if he's also not on the mortgage) and/or permission to sell is irrelevant.

If he has been helping with the mortgage, it is *possible* that a court would find that he has an equitable right (basically, a right grounded in fairness) to something for his contribution. It would be far less than a 50-50 split and would--IF it were found to exist--by related in some fashion to his contribution. In most cases, though, when a family member voluntarily helps another with payments or gives money to another voluntarily, without some agreement as to repayment--and especially if the two are husband and wife--then the contributions will be found to be gifts. Also, if he's been living there, then a court could also found that he's already received his compensation for any payments--he's had a place to live. I mention this therefore not because it's a high probability event that he could successfully make an equitable claim, but because there is some possibility.


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