Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law
In a Florida divorce, the parties often have a marital home that has to be divided by the parties regarding either the asset value or the debt owed. However, sometimes the house may simply shift ownership per a divorce agreement by the parties, especially when the home is underwater like most are in today’s economy. The shift normally occurs because the party that stayed in the home at the time of separation cannot afford to maintain the home after the divorce is final, but the other party can. As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I often receive questions from clients regarding what the home must be in at the time of transfer.
If possible, you want the divorce agreement or order to actually define the condition of the home and what necessary repairs must be done. It does not make sense that the party is returning the home in a better condition than how it was during the marriage, but it also should not be in worse condition. If the party with present possession does not have the ability to maintain the home, then it is unreasonable to expect the spouse to have the ability to fix in and all issues that were present during the marriage. Things such as lawn maintenance that was in place during the marriage should also be kept up. However, completely re-landscaping the yard to make it better looking is not a reasonable cost expectation.
The issues that typically arise in cases are where a spouse is upset about having to move out and then actually depletes the marital value of the home by destroying the property. Destruction of property is not reasonable wear and tear, but actually done to impact the value of the home and the ability for the other spouse to live in it. These actions can actually be brought up to a judge in a contempt and enforcement situation. The offending party may be responsible for all necessary repairs of the damage done and responsible for the attorney’s fees for the other party. Destruction of the home is more common than most people would like and is something seen not only in divorces, but in foreclosure cases as well. Understanding that the damage may come back as a cost to you can be a deterrent.
Also, in a divorce proceeding and contempt of the order, the judge can go so far as requiring the offending party to go to jail and give a purge amount of the cost for all repairs. The reason is that a violation of a court order is actually a legal violation that is punishable with time in jail. In a destruction of property action, the contempt may not be the only legal violation, but criminally, there may be action that the police can take for vandalism and intentional destruction of property, if the spouse is caught.
If you have a home that has been or will be divided in a Florida divorce, then you should speak with an attorney about your rights and options. If your home was to be transferred and the other party failed to do something or is trying to impose additional responsibilities, then you may need to file the proper action with the court.