Since Utah is a marital property state, if the home was purchased during the marriage, then the answer is yes. Marital property refers to nearly everything purchased during the course of the marriage (with some exceptions), and during divorce, there is an equitable distribution of assets, including the home. Please note, equitable does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split.
In marital property states, one exception to this rule is separate property, which is when one spouse has purchased and owned an asset, most likely before entering into the marriage. However, the home is typically not this kind of asset, and even if it was purchased before the marriage and only one spouse is on the title, the other spouse can still have a claim to the increase of its value during the course of the marriage, especially if some of their money or income went to paying for or maintaining the home.
There are two basic scenarios:
- If the home was purchased during the course of your marriage, even if only one of the parties’ names is on the title, it will almost certainly be considered marital property. This is because marital property encompasses almost everything purchased during the course of the marriage.
- If the property was bought before marriage, the standard is to award it to the owner. Less common, a party can claim an equitable interest, but it’s usually considered more as a bargaining chip than anything else. However, if the non-title spouse made/paid for significant improvements or if they have contributed to the value of the home for a long period of time, equitable interest is certainly valid. If the Court deems a spouse has an equitable interest, the Court can split the value of what belongs to the titled spouse, along with the respective increases in value, from that which the non-titled spouse would be able to claim.
Of note, there are ways to avoid having the Court get involved in splitting your assets, including making determinations on what will happen to the home. If you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that outlines what happens to the marital home should there be a divorce (e.g. agreeing to sell it and split the value between you two, letting one party keep it, etc.), then so long as those terms are not deemed unreasonable or unconscionable, the agreement will be honored. Additionally, while still subject to the Court’s approval, in your Stipulation, you can specify and agree to certain terms, such as having one party pay an agreed upon amount to the other party in order to keep the home, or any other options you two deem fair.
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