Appraisals, Commissions and More: Contesting the Terms of a Court-Ordered Sale of a Marital Home in a Maryland Divorce

One goal for divorce is to create closure and free up both spouses to move on with their separate lives. Sometimes, that means certain things financially like selling the marital home. If you think that the proposed sale is improper, whether because the sale price is too low, the broker commission is too high or something else, you have certain legal options you can take. However, it is important to be forewarned: simply because you file the proper paperwork objecting to the proposed sale, that does not automatically mean that the trial judge must hold a hearing before ruling on your objection, as one husband learned recently.

Whether you are the spouse supporting a proposed sale of the marital home or opposing it, it pays to have an experienced Maryland family law attorney on your side.

Y.A. and N.A. were couple going through a divorce where selling the marital home was an issue. The judge handling their divorce case ordered the couple to split everything related to the sale 50-50. Each spouse would pay half the costs and fees of the sale, and each spouse would receive half the proceeds after the sale was finished.

The court also appointed an outside trustee to handle the sale. Just two months later, the trustee returned to report the completion of a sale. The house had been professionally appraised at $322,000, and had been listed at $339,900. In the end, the house sold for $340,000 with a $5,000 seller’s credit to help with the buyer’s closing costs. Additionally, the realtor handling the transaction received a 5% commission.

A week later, the husband contested the sale, filing something called “exceptions” to the sale. He argued that a second appraisal determined that the house was worth $344,000. The $339,900 listing price was too low, and the closing costs credit and realtor’s commission were too high, according to the husband. The trial judge disagreed and OKed the sale’s completion.

The husband appealed but he lost again. One of the notable things to note in this case was an argument that failed for the husband. He argued that, when he filed his challenge to the proposed sale, that filing required the court hold a hearing. The court didn’t, so that should lead to a ruling in his favor, he argued.

The appeals court explained that the husband had misconstrued the Maryland Rules. The trial court is only required to hold a hearing and take evidence is the party’s filing “clearly” shows a need for the court to take evidence. Whether that need exists or not is a decision that is firmly within the discretion of the trial judge. In this husband’s case, he did not have so much proof that the trial judge’s denial of a hearing was obviously outside the bounds of reasonableness, so the decision stood.

Finally, the husband also advanced an argument that, hearing or no hearing, the trial judge clearly never should have approved the sale. The evidence said otherwise, according to the appeals court. The home was teetering on the edge of foreclosure within 90 days and there was no evidence that the home inspired any offers other than the lone $340,000 offer which, the court noted, was very near the $344,000 appraisal amount the husband cited in his court papers. As a result, the approval of the sale, as well as the denial of the hearing, were deemed reasonable and worthy of being upheld.

For all of your divorce and family law needs, whether they involve alimony, child support, child custody or property division, consult skilled Maryland family law attorney Anthony A. Fatemi, who has been helping Maryland spouses and parents for many years to work toward successful solutions. To find out how we can help you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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