Tips & Tricks- spouse won’t agree to sell house

One of the first issues that becomes contentious when people split up is: “What are we going to do with the matrimonial home?”

Sometimes, one spouse will want to stay at the property and assume the balance of the mortgage. Other times, both parties recognize that the house needs to be sold because neither spouse can afford to live there on their own.

Unfortunately, because couples splitting up can have difficulty agreeing on anything, one spouse might refuse to provide their consent to have the house listed for sale. This compounds problems between separating spouses, because the only money the couple might have is tied up in the house. If the house doesn’t sell, neither one will have the funds available to pay an equalization payment, or joint debts, or to buy another property. Even if one party has the funds to purchase another property, it would be difficult to be approved for a second mortgage when they are already on title to the matrimonial home as a co-borrower with their spouse.

What are your options if your spouse won’t agree to put your house on the market? I always recommend that the spouse does not prematurely vacate the matrimonial home. Although you’re not getting along and it’s awkward living with someone when you’re no longer together, you remove a lot of pressure from your spouse to be cooperative once you move out. The discomfort of having to live together under the same roof can work in your favour if it makes the other party more motivated to get the property sold.

If you’ve already moved out, and you can’t reach an agreement with your spouse, you can bring a motion to a judge to have the house listed for sale at fair market value. It’s best to have an appraisal of the property done as soon as possible so that you have credible evidence as to what the property is worth. The consent of the non-cooperating spouse can be dispensed with so that you aren’t dependent on them signing off on any documents to complete the sale.

As part of the motion, you can include a claim for legal costs against your spouse arising from their refusal to consent to the sale of the house.

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