house was mine first

tinyladyJune 23, 2008

I bought a house in 2001. I got married in 2003. WE have refinanced a few times in both our names to fix the house. But his name is not on the deed.IN fact my old name is still on the deed. I bought the house with the money that I received from the death of my parents. If we get a divorce, which I wish I could, what legal rights does he have to the house? Keep in mind when we got married he didn't really have anything nor could he get a credit card. He rented a bottom floor apartment, had a beat up old ford car, no savings, bad credit, furniture from his parents.

After we were married we bought, well it started out that we were buying him a truck, but I found out then right after getting married that his credit was bad. So the truck is in my name.

Since our marriage and me handling his and my money, he has aquired a truck, cruising motorcycle, and large shop,and a nice home,new furniture, vacation money, and money in a savings account.

So my question is, what legal rights do I have when it comes to my home. Will he be able to get half of it?

I live in NJ

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Suspect the house will be yours but re-financing thing will leave you on the hook to some extent. In any event, whatever advice you receive here will likely be beside the point. Which is: you'll need to have an attorney in your state tell you the specifics. 5-year marriage is getting to the point where division of assets will be looked at more closely with both parties typically going for all they can get. And arguments between lawyers are always expensive. Strongly advise getting an attorney ASAP and get your ducks in a row early. Divorces and division of assets are common everywhere but the rules are different. They've seen it all before. Your "legal rights" are no more or less than what the state says they are. You should find out specifically and pronto. Don't expect solid information on this important matter here or anywhere else but from a competent attorney right where you are. Your specific situation will, doubtless, have some twists and turns you may not be thinking about until you do.

If there's any way possible to settle things amicably without going to court, by all means do it -- even if you have to give a little more than you think is fair. If you must go to court, you're going spend a LOT of time, aggravation, and money -- almost always much more of each than you can imagine when you begin..

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 7:53PM
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I know there will be things that come up like he makes more money then me now. I quit the job I had because he said I was never home. But will the fact that I put down $7000 to buy the house and spent about $4000.00 of my money on the house before we were married and that my money paid for half of the shop that he has which was $6000.00
Will all that come into play.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 8:39PM
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like asolo said you're gonna need to talk to a lawyer in your state..rules can be different everywhere. Generally, I think, they're gonna take all your stuff and then you guys get to split it. There is no 'your house', 'his truck' per se. There's -- this is worth $50,000 and these two things are worth $25,000 each. I'll take this and you take that. Now the fact that you had put money down may be considered and you may be able to keep that part... but it doesn't sound like you're talking a whole lot of money in the scheme of things. You may say the house is worth $200,000 and he may say $250,000...a compromise on that may more than make up for the $17,000 you think you're due (plus that $4000 on improvements? may be hard to get).

You really need to make sure that you'll be able to make the house payments by yourself too before you decide to fight for the house. I've seen lots of people worry about it and even take a loss or big compromise to get it, and then they end up having to sell it. So, be careful.

But, again, your best bet and best person to advise you is a lawyer. Many offer free consults and will be able to answer your questions. Be sure to budget a couple grand just on your side to cover your attorney costs. They often make you pay the money up front too when/if you decide to hire them and file.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 9:00PM
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Only a good divorce attorney can tell you that.
If you like, I do have a few thoughts, this is what I learned from my own divorce:

1. Be fair, both to him and to yourself. What goes around really does come around. Plus if anybody gets ripped off, it adds to the hurt and pain. Fairness is the right thing to do.

2. A really good divorce lawyer is well worth the money. They will think of a million things you would miss.

3. Remember that your financial situaton in the future will be far different than it is now. Think about your old age when you split stuff. Will you have access to each others' retirement or Social Security benefits?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 9:06PM
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No, it will not come into play. When you refinanced in both of your names, the house became both of yours, regardless of whose name is on the deed. Even if you didn't refinance, once you use money that you both have access to and/or contribute to in order to pay the mortgage, it's called commingling, so 50% of the asset belongs to each spouse. ie, if you had an account with $50,000 in pre marital funds, such as an inheritance, and transferred $20,000 into a joint account to pay the mortgage or for a car, or really for anything, half of the $20K or the asset becomes his. In the same line, if he contributed in any way to the pre-marital account, such as adding $100 a month to it, half becomes his. This is all regardless of who made the down payment or put in the most. Laws vary from state to state, so you definitely need to consult an attorney. I am NOT an attorney, but I have gone through a divorce with some of the issues you bring up.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 9:15PM
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"Will all that come into play."

Anything and everything that either of you "put in play" will be. Whatever disagreements you have that you are unable to work out yourselves, the court will decide for you. Doesn't matter if it's totally bogus or not. It can still be claimed, alleged, argued. This is how lawyers make their money.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 9:57PM
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You know I used to think what weed30 thought but then I was looking up info for a friend a while ago and found just the opposite. Now I am really confused about this house thing so I looked it up again and found this...

2 systems govern maritial property:
The community property system in some of the Western States
and common law (also called marital property) in the others

I "think" one system recognizes the property you bring into the marriage as yours (even if both later contribute mortgage payments), and one combines it, but I'm not even sure. You may want to figure which your state does and research it. Your lawyer should know for sure. I wouldn't trust anything 100% you read on the internet about it anyway; I keep finding contradictory stuff on it.

But, just remember even if you have to split it, you shouldn't be out the entire amount. You should at least get close to half...if that's how they break up your division.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 10:48PM
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You *have* to get an attorney in your state to answer your questions;

Texas is a community property state, but there are exceptions, including property that one party owned before the marriage & inheritances.

*but*, if the house is re-financed here, both names have to be on the deed, & the house becomes community property.

Co-mingling of funds is a baddie, too.

Please get an attorney;
your local bar association may have a lawyer referral service, where you get a, say, 20 minute consultation for a very small amount of money (last time I checked, several years ago, it was $20 here).

I wish you the best.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 9:59AM
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"Doesn't matter if it's totally bogus or not. It can still be claimed, alleged, argued."

For example, a friend of mine's wife claimed and argued -- in court, before the judge -- that she was entitled to 1/2 of her husband's inheritance from his parents notwithstanding that both his parents were still living. Totally bogus claim that was, of course, disallowed. However, my friend still had to pay his attorney to refute it. Even involved the judge, in court, during the proceedings, calling the guys parents and asking them about their intentions. True story. I'll bet arguing that single claim cost the guy a grand all told, even though it was totally silly.

Things can get nuts in court. And very expensive. Don't go there unless you absolutely have to. to an attorney ASAP and find out where you stand and about "fair/equitable" division where you live. You'll probably like some of what you learn and dislike some of it. Just don't make it up on your own. Learn the reality you have to deal with and act accordingly.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 10:35AM
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Sorry, it was my house too and he couldn't sell it once we refinanced. He thought he was going to sell it out from under me and our son (what was he thinking?!). I had to sign in order for him to go forward. And that was in backwards Tennessee. I suspect, if his name is on it anywhere, it's on it. But Sylvia is right, only a lawyer can truly answer. Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 10:36AM
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Are you able to afford the payments if the house does go to you 100% since you quit your job? Are you trying to keep the house or sell it?

You may be able to work a deal out with your husband in such a way that you both work out how much each has contributed to the house- you put in the downpayment and a lot of payments before he came along, now he is paying all the bills. Maybe you can buy him out of what he put into the house and not involve the lawyers, then refinance again in your own name. Just an idea. He doesn't sound like he's all that good with money, so he may want to take the offer and run.

I'm sorry that this is even coming up. Divorce is not easy emotionally, physically, or financially.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 4:06PM
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You need a divorce attorney in New Jersey. I practice law in California and one thing is true. You will get a lot of advice from non-lawyers regarding the law in New Jersey and 90% of it is wrong. I don't even know what the law in New Jersey is regarding a family home that started out as separate property.

So start with a conference with a family law attorney and understand what your rights are. Yes the fact that you owned it first and paid the down payment can be important. Get copies of that evidence. There is a formula in California to determine who gets what in a case like yours, and it takes a while to do the calculation. Also look to see if your husband quitclaimed after the refinance. Take all of that to the attorney. Try to get a copy of the latest deed on the house, I would be surprised if you were able to refinance without putting his name on title. correct information is everything.
Dont try to work out anything with your husband until you understand what all of your rights are. He may have a pension,or stock options to which you are entitled. He may have gone to an attorney already and knows what his rights are. So you don't want to offer him $40,000 when he would only be entitled to $20,000. Sure you would save attorney fees, but it would not make sense.
Bear in mind that as you make less money than he does, you will have a tougher time recovering from the divorce. You could afford the house you owned before you married. It has been refinanced and I would bet for a larger amount. So look at the mortgage payment now and think carefully before you refi to "buy him out". If you do that and lose the house in foreclosure you will end up with -0-. I have seen it happen. So don't be in a big rush to be getting it all over with and being "fair". Its better to be well informed and careful.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 7:48PM
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Just one more thought: when the clients "see red" the attorney sees green. Meaning that the more contention and discord that can be provoked between the two divorcing parties, the more legal fees. Fairness is good karma! (Just be fair to yourself, as well.)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 2:06AM
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"Fairness" is best. Trouble is, in marriage the laws of the state decide and frequently its decisions seem unfair. In my experience most people get whole new ideas about what "fair" means during breakups. They learn new possibilities of what they may be able to get away with that they haven't even thought of before.

Legal contests cost money, time, and aggravation. If they can be avoided, they should be. Rational adults should be able to work these things out "farily" but divorce court dockets are ample evidence that they often can't or won't. An outcome that leaves both parties feeling equally cheated is typically what passes for "fair". And then the attorneys get paid -- off the top.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 5:40PM
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