Is my ex-wife entitled to half the principal residence I paid for?

Is my ex-wife entitled to half the principal residence?

Even though Jean’s ex-wife left him months ago, can she still come after him for a share of the house?

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Q: My situation is that my ex-spouse who co-signed with me for the purchase of a house decided to leave 14 months later. Mind you she never put any money towards the house and the down payment came from an inheritance from my parents. We divorced not long after yet no demands were made. I ended up with the mortgage and through hard work was able to pay it off. My question is this: Is she entitled to anything after she more or else reneged on the deal?

—Jean

A: The matrimonial home is treated as a very special asset when it comes to family law. Regardless of who paid what, once it is established as the matrimonial home and you have occupied it as such, all money paid for the asset is considered to be a matrimonial asset.

Many people don’t know this or choose to ignore this as no one plans or anticipates a divorce. This means that any inheritance used to pay for the home is then considered a gift to the spouse and is included in the equalization process. As unfair as this seems it is a fundamental of property division.

In your question, you refer to fact that you have since been able to pay off the mortgage that was jointly signed for, therefore I am assuming some time has passed since you and your wife have gone separate ways. Unfortunately, you have not indicated whether or not a separation agreement has been executed.

Until such time as you have done this and agreed to no further claims against each other, there is the possibility of someone making a claim. Whether or not there is a limitation on the amount of time that this has to happen in order to be valid, you would have to seek legal counsel to figure out your possible liability.

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Debbie Hartzmann is a certified divorce financial analyst and holds the following designations: CFP, CLU, CDFA.TEP, RRC and CEA


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