Food for Thought
I own a home with my ex-husband. He agreed to pay my half of the mortgage. In the final judgment, the judge said I should “keep” the property we owned in Fla., and my ex should “keep” the Tampa home.
He ultimately short sold the Tampa property without my signature or approval, even though it was marital property. I have lived in this property for 30 years — 15 with my ex and 15 since the separation and divorce.
I thought “keep” meant keep, and the judge who is presiding over the lawsuit my ex has brought to partition the property agreed.
However, the first judge did not include the legal description of the property. Therefore, it was not a legal conveyance, and the second judge ordered the partition of the property, summary judgment.
Do I have any rights? The house was part of my settlement. I understand that it gets partitioned, but shouldn’t I be allowed to keep the proceeds from the sale? This house was where I was going to live in retirement.
I have remodeled and maintained this property on my own, and all of the insurance claims paid out went to him because he was the one in the mortgage. He kept this money and never used it to repair my home.
I am a senior and cannot afford to take on a mortgage. Don’t I at least have squatter’s rights? Can I bring legal action against the title company who facilitated the sale of the Tampa marital property, without my permission?
A financial expert once told me that going through a divorce is like your own personal recession. He could list stories where the dissolution of a marriage had major financial consequences. I’ve even interviewed a woman who said her divorce cost her around $1 million in retirement savings — the experience even inspired her to become a financial analyst who specializes in divorce cases.
I mention all of this to underscore that you’re not alone in feeling like you were wronged by your ex-husband — and that the precarious financial state you’re now in is unfair or unjust. That, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s done anything wrong, or that the judge made the wrong decision.
Florida state law spells out that, in a divorce, marital assets are to be divided equitably. But equitable doesn’t always mean equal. In many cases, yes, assets will be split 50-50. But there can be situations where a judge may decide that splitting the marital property in half isn’t fair. That might be the case here, though without reviewing the divorce documents it’s not possible to know for sure.
Florida state law spells out that, in a divorce, marital assets are to be divided equitably. But equitable doesn’t always mean equal.
If the first judge spelled out that the Tampa property would go completely to your ex-husband, he may have been within his rights to sell it without your consent. That said, it sounds as though the second judge revised the terms of the divorce settlement, and reassessed how the property you two mutually owned in your marriage would be divided.
However, if you believe that the second judge erred in revising the settlement, or that your husband sold the Tampa home without receiving proper consent to do so, you could consider pursuing an appeal or other legal action. I will warn you, though, that there maybe a time limit within which this appeal must be recorded. Either way, you should consult your own attorney to determine what options you have.
Bottom line: If the second judge did partition the home you’re currently living in — and their opinion stands — you should get a portion of the proceeds of any sale that were to occur. If the home was portioned in half, you would receive half the proceeds. In this scenario, your ex-husband could attempt to force the sale through the court. Otherwise the two of you could seek to maximize your profit from the sale.
The definition of who qualifies as a squatter varies from state to state.
Just because you live in the home does not necessarily mean you have squatter’s rights.
“A squatter is anyone who begins to inhabit a piece of property or land without the legal right to do so; In other words, they are not renting the property from the owner (where landlord-tenant law comes into play) and they do not have permission to use it.”
The definition of who qualifies as a squatter varies from state to state. In Florida, a person must meet specific requirements to qualify as a squatter under so-called “adverse possession” laws. For instance, one condition squatters in Florida must meet is hostile possession, meaning that they did not have permission from the property’s owner to live in it, according to TrustHome Properties.
By consulting an attorney, you could determine whether you might qualify for protection as a squatter.
By consulting an attorney, you could determine whether you might qualify for protection as a squatter. They could also advise you as to whether it would be worth pursuing legal action, whether that be against your ex-husband, the title company associated with the sale of the Tampa home or the judge who neglected to record the terms of your original divorce settlement properly.
And you decide to approach lawyers about such a case? Tread with caution. Don’t hire someone because they’re saying what you want to hear. Feel free to get a second or third opinion, but if you are advised by multiple attorneys against pursuing legal action then you may want to trust their judgment on the matter.
Consider hiring a financial adviser who could guide you through this volatile time in your life. It worries me that you don’t seem to have the means to cover the cost of housing and other necessities. If your current home is ultimately sold and you receive some sort of profit, what you do with that money could determine how financially protected you are in the future. That could mean putting it toward the down payment on a new home, investing it or saving it to use for future rent payments.
I can only imagine how stressful and unsettling this all has been for you. Allow yourself to feel those emotions now, so that you can make these next crucial decisions with a clear mind. wishing you the best of luck as you navigate these hurdles.