Court-Ordered Sale of House in Florida Divorce
- What happens to your house when divorcing in Florida?
- Steps involved in a court-ordered sale
- What if I don’t want to sell?
As part of your divorce settlement, you must split marital assets, including your home. If you can’t make equitable arrangements per Florida law, one party could force the sale of your home.
Know that a court-ordered sale is a last resort. Do all you can to agree on an equitable split with your ex. Once the court steps in, your options are very limited. In fact, it’s impossible to stop a sale once it has been ordered by the court. If this isn’t what you want, it’s worth the effort to try to bypass this step beforehand by working with your spouse, often in mediation.
What happens to your house when divorcing in Florida?
Florida laws require people to split their marital assets equitably. Sometimes, the home you’ve shared is one such marital asset.
A marital asset is one that the family purchased during the marriage. A court could also consider a home a marital asset if one person owned it before the wedding but the other helped pay the mortgage during the marriage.
If both names are on the home’s title and insurance documents, it’s easy to prove joint ownership, too.
Steps involved in a court-ordered sale in Florida
1. File for partition
Anyone with rights to the property can file for a partition, even if they hold only a minority stake in its value.
2. Plead your case
If you can’t agree with your partner and require a partition suit, you must head to a hearing to discuss your case with a judge. Your lawyer should present compelling evidence that proves you have a right to your fair share of the family home.
Partition suits can be pled in divorce cases. But the ownership of the home won’t change until your divorce is final. At that point, you’ll be two separate entities (individuals) instead of one (a married couple).
3. Wait for judgment
The court will examine all of your evidence and define the proper ownership split. If the judge determines that the property can’t be split equitably without harming either party, the court could order the home sold via a public auction or private sale.
4. Anticipate the sale
The court will tell you their decision in your divorce hearing, through your lawyer, via a certified letter, or through all three methods. In that order, the court will identify when the home will be sold.
Deadlines exist. Per Florida law, the sale can’t be less than 20 days or more than 35 days after the date of the judgment. If that time frame won’t work, both parties must agree to an extension.
5. Wait for your share
At the end of the sale, money will be collected and disbursed to you per your divorce and partition agreement.
Typically, profits are expressed in ratios, so a slightly higher or lower sales point won’t mean going back to court. But those same ratios could also determine how much you’ll pay the professionals handling the sale for you.
In some cases, people get less money than they hoped for in a court-ordered sale of their home.
What kinds of things can you include in the agreement?
In some states, people can craft stipulated home sale agreements. Florida is a little different.
If the Florida court requires a sale, parties have few legal options to change the terms. You can’t always require one party to make repairs, kick out tenants, or otherwise fix up the family home for a bigger profit. Similarly, you can’t ask for parts of the home (like the new flooring you put in) to be removed before the sale happens.
If you want to make deals with your partner, do so before you file suit to make the court sell your home. Once the lawyers and judge take charge, your options are extremely limited. You might end up feeling you could have gotten a higher asking price for your home if you went a different route.
What if I don’t want to sell?
Emotional attachments can make selling your home extremely difficult. Even after months of wrangling in court, you may be surprised by the sales ruling. Unfortunately, these orders are very difficult to overturn.
If you’re committed to keeping the home, negotiate with your partner long before you go to court. Hire a mediator, participate in bargaining sessions, and prepare to make concessions. Your willingness to compromise can be painful in the moment, but it could help you keep this core asset.
If you’ve lost your court case and your home will be sold by the court, move out. Your legal options have ended, and it’s time to find a new place to live. The court can forcibly eject you from the home, fine you for not following orders, and more. Fighting in this way won’t help you to keep your home, either.
Work with your spouse and try to come to an arrangement. It really is the best way to keep you in the home you love. If you don't think the two of you can come to an agreement on your own, consider working with a mediator – a professional trained in conflict resolution who can help you find a compromise.
An experienced mediator can help you to find common ground so you can avoid court. Remember that no one gets 100% of what they want in a divorce. The goal is to find a mutually beneficial solution where both parties get some of what they want.
ReferencesConsumer Pamphlet: Divorce in Florida. (March 2023). The Florida Bar.
Chapter 64: Partition of Property. The Florida Legislature.
Partitioning Real Property in Dissolution of Marriage Actions and Suits Between Unmarried Cotenants: Credits, Setoffs, Outster, Division, and Sale. (February 2008). The Florida Bar.
Roger Staley Seminar Outline: Partition. The Broward Bar Association.
Florida Statute 45.031: Judicial Sales Procedure. Case Text.