We concede that the title of this article leans toward the irreverent. However, the irreverence reflected in the title of this article merely reflects the apparent irreverence with which many divorce litigants handle the issue of Dividing the House When Divorcing the Spouse.
On a fairly regular basis, we are contacted by potential clients who relate the following scenario: Harry Husband and Wilma Wife divorced several years ago. At the conclusion of the divorce proceedings, Wilma, who had been a stay-at-home mom, received title to the family residence. Harry, as part of the divorce decree, received the right to receive a sum of money that reflected his marital property interest in the family residence.
The divorce decree also contains a provision that purports to require Wilma to refinance the debt which is secured by the family residence — “within a reasonable period of time” — or some such similarly vague language, so that Harry will no longer be contractually obligated to pay the loan.
When Harry or Wilma calls our law office some years after the divorce (our office didn’t represent either party in the underlying divorce proceeding), either Harry complains that Wilma never refinanced the residence as is “required” by the divorce decree, or Wilma complains that Harry is “harassing” her to refinance the house even though she lacks the financial ability to do so.
As with most problems, it is easier and less expensive to do something correctly the first time, rather than to try and remedy a problem at some future point in time. Harry and Wilma, by the time their problem is resolved, will likely be acutely aware of this truism.
While it is understandable why Harry and Wilma (and their attorneys, if they were represented by counsel) took the “easy way out” at the time of their divorce — the easy way being “just get the divorce over with and we’ll worry about the refinance later — the reality is that taking “the easy way out” only makes the problem more difficult (and expensive) to resolve at some future point in time.
Regardless of whether you’re about to get married, already married, or facing divorce, don’t be a “Harry” or a “Wilma.” Obtain the assistance of an attorney who is familiar with asset protection, real property, and marital property law, and implement appropriate legal strategies that, in the event of legal troubles “down the road,” will help negate, or at least minimize, the negative impact and expense of those legal troubles.
As the old saying goes, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.”
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