How a Maryland Husband Managed to Force a Sale of the Marital Home After the Wife Fell Behind on the Mortgage Payments

When you reach a settlement agreement to resolve outstanding issues in your divorce, you likely hope that this agreement will bring about closure. Sometimes, however, that doesn’t happen. Whether it is a spouse’s refusal to follow the terms of the agreement or complications that arise after life events intervene, there may be many reasons why new disagreements emerge between you and your ex-spouse. When that happens, you may need to go back to court to protect your rights. To best protect yourself, be sure you have an experienced Maryland divorce attorney on your side.

Like many people, J.D. and P.M. purchased some real estate while they were married. One of the properties they purchased was a 4-bedroom, 3-bath home in Bowie. In 2004, the couple separated. The husband continued living in the Bowie home while the wife moved into an apartment in Silver Spring.

Eventually, the pair worked out a marital agreement and that agreement was included in the couple’s 2013 divorce judgment. In the agreement, both spouses acknowledged that the husband would take sole ownership of the Bowie residence, and that he would be solely responsible for making the mortgage payments, as well as all insurance and taxes.

Five months after the divorce became final, the husband left the Bowie home and the wife moved in. According to the husband, the wife agreed to take over all payments related to the house, including the mortgage, and eventually to refinance the mortgage in her name alone. The wife allegedly did not refinance and, after making a few months’ payments, began falling behind on the mortgage. The husband asserted that he had to spend $5,000 of his own money to keep the mortgage current.

As a result, the husband went back to court and asked the judge to appoint a trustee who would sell the property, and then make the appropriate payments to each spouse out of the proceeds of that sale. The trial court OK’ed that appointment and the sale of the house.

The wife appealed. The basis of her argument was that, when the husband moved out and she moved in during the summer of 2013, he agreed to transfer sole ownership of the house to her. That oral promise was enough, under Maryland law, to give her sole legal control of the house, she asserted.

The appeals court did not agree, instead ruling that the trial court was within its discretion in deciding simply to order to the sale of the property and the payment to each spouse of the proceeds.

So, what should you make of all this legal battling? First, if you’re in a position like the husband, and you believe you are being harmed as a result of your ex-spouse’s failure to perform as agreed, you don’t need simply to keep taking that financial “hit.” Consult skilled counsel and consider what options you may have in court. If you’re in a position like the wife, the outcome is a reminder that, as with many agreements, it is typically best not to rely on oral promises and instead to consult counsel and “get it in writing.”

For all of your divorce and family law needs, consult skilled Maryland family law attorney Anthony A. Fatemi, who has been helping Maryland spouses and parents for many years to achieve positive results. To find out how we can help you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

Beware Before You Sign: A Maryland Court Rules that a Couple’s Handwritten Document Was a Valid Marital Settlement Agreement, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Oct. 9, 2018

Principles of Contract Law Govern Many Aspects of Family Law Proceedings, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 15, 2015

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