A divorce can be messy – especially when one spouse does things to intentionally make the process more difficult, such as selling the family home without your permission. If in the middle of your divorce case your spouse sells the home you purchased together during your marriage, you need to take steps to prevent him or her from causing further damage, such as spending the money made from the home sale. It is important to include a divorce lawyer in your case if your spouse does something like selling the community property home.
What Is Community Property?
California is a community property divorce state. Community property refers to joint ownership between two people. All assets, items and debts a couple acquired during their marriage is community property. During a divorce case, the California courts will split community property in half between each spouse. Typically, each spouse will walk away with half the marital assets and debts regardless of fault for the divorce.
A community property home is one that both spouses own together. If one spouse purchased the home before the marriage and the other moved into it, it may not be community property. Instead, it will be separate property and the spouse that owns the home will get to keep it. If a home is community property, neither spouse has the right to sell it without agreement from the other spouse. Both parties technically own the property and must therefore agree together on what to do with the home.
Stipulation vs. Illegal Behavior
The only time your spouse may sell the community property home is if you both agree to sell the property. Two parties mutually agreeing to something like selling a home during a divorce is a stipulation. If both parties stipulate the sale of the community property home, the spouse can proceed to sell the home without penalty. If, however, one spouse sells the home during a divorce without the other’s permission, it is illegal behavior.
What to Do Next
If your spouse illegally sells the community property home in the middle of a divorce, contact an attorney for assistance with the next steps. Your lawyer can immediately file a motion with the family courts seeking an injunction against your spouse. An injunction or court order could prevent your spouse from doing further damage. It could prevent the spouse from spending the money he or she got from the sale of the community property home, for example.
Your lawyer can also ask for a sanction during your divorce case. A sanction is a sum of money the courts may force your spouse to pay as punishment for misconduct. If one spouse intentionally breaks the law or otherwise makes a divorce take longer than it has to, the courts may force that spouse to pay the court fees and attorney’s expenses for the other spouse. If your spouse illegally sold your community property home without your permission, you could be eligible for sanctions.
How to Prevent Illegal Behaviors During a Divorce
Once you file for divorce, your spouse does not have the right to sell jointly owned things. Stay vigilant and keep an eye on your spouse’s activities during a divorce case – especially if the split is not amicable. If you notice anything amiss, contact an attorney for assistance. Your lawyer can help you take action toward recovering the sold property or otherwise protecting your rights. The courts may hold your spouse in contempt and penalize him or her for selling a community property home.
It is better to prevent your spouse from committing an illegal activity than to try to repair the damage once already done. Working with an attorney can help you stop your spouse from committing acts that could damage your divorce case, such as hiding assets or illegally selling community property. Your attorney can hire investigators to watch for signs of suspicious activity, as well as help you properly react if something does go wrong.