Roger Broseus, Ph.D. married Isadel Broseus in 1970.  They had a child in 1981.  They jointly owned a three-bedroom house in Gaithersburg.  In 1985 Roger took the minor child and left the martial home.  He obtained custody of the child and use and possession of the family home and moved back in.  Isadel was forced to leave and rent an efficiency apartment.  Her car was repossessed for failure to make payments.

Roger made the mortgage payments on the house during the four years between separation and divorce.  Roger asked the court to order isadel to reimburse him for a portion of these payments claiming the right of contribution.

The trial court denied his claim and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed, for these reasons:

  1. Roger’s payments on the house were for the support of his wife and child.
  2. He had the use of the premises without having to pay rent.
  3. He took the tax deductions for the house.
  4. It was unreasonable for him to believe his wife would be able to contribute in view of her financial situation.
  5. Most importantly, he used his income to make the payments, which income was martial property.

The court said contribution is not a matter of right and is within the sound discretion of the trial court.

Broesus v. Broseus 370 A2d 874 (Md.App. 1970)

Will rising housing prices bring more divorces?  Couples who were arguing over who takes on the house as a liability may now be able to argue over how to split the net sales proceeds if housing prices continue to advance.

Over the past year in Maryland, housing prices in Montgomery County increased more than those of any other county in the Washington, DC, region, according to a story in the Washington Examiner.

Housing prices rose 11.7 percent in May over the same period a year ago, and are up 5.7 percent so far this year, a Metropolitan Regional Information Systems report showed.

Evangeline bought a house on Brandywine Street in D.C. in 1967 for $26,950.  In 1974 she married David and he moved into her house.  David paid the mortgage during the marriage until 1986.

At their divorce Evangline claimed the property was all hers under D.C. Code § 16-910(a) (1981), which provides that property acquired prior to the marriage is the sole and separate property of the spouse who originally owned it and must be assigned to that spouse upon divorce.

The trial court awarded David a 50% interest in the house.  Evangeline appealed and the DC Court of appeals reversed in part.  The statute it said prohibits the divorce judge from giving David a legal interest in the house.  The court could not transfer title to premarital property and therefore, it must remain in Evangeline’s name.  However, the judge could give David an equitable interest in the house.

The court then instructed the trial judge to determine a dollar amount of that interest, not a percentage, based on David’s contributions and appreciation during the marriage.   Yeldell v. Yeldell, 551 A.2d 832 (1988)

A few years ago one of our lawyers described our typical divorce case like this.  A couple marries, buys a house, divorces three years later, sells the house and each spouse walks away with $50,000.  If they weren’t married, they would be happy with this partnership and call it successful, instead of hating each other.

But in this market, housing prices have plummeted to values sometimes below the balance due on the mortgage.  Divorce negotiations have turned from how to split up the sales proceeds to who gets stuck with the house.

Even when one spouse agrees to take over the underwater house and the mortgage payments, the other spouse may have to keep their name on the mortgage which may make it difficult to buy another house.

WashingtonPost.Com received over a thousand comments on its front page story Sunday by Anne Hull about Laura Steins, 47, of Harrison, New York.

Steins got the $2.5 million dollar house in her divorce and $75,000 a year in child support.  She makes $150,000 a year plus a bonus at her job as a MasterCard VP.  She also has about $50,000 a year in investment income.  That’s over $300,000 a year.

But it costs her $8,000 to $10,000 a month to keep up her 4,000 square foot house on three acres. Her property taxes are $35,000 a year, the nanny is $40,000, the gardener is $500 a month and there is someone to plow the driveway in the winter.

“A), I couldn’t sell the house right now,” she says, citing the slow real estate market. “B), this is where my kids go to school. And C), it’s where my job is,” says Steins.

A lot of comments, some from people who make closer to what the nanny makes than what Steins makes, were not sympathetic to her plight.

Having trouble selling your home?  Here’s a new incentive you might want to try.

In Spain, a real estate company is offering a free divorce if you buy a home from them, according to UPI.Com.

Geimsa realtors in Huelva, Spain, says this deal is for you if you are putting off your divorce because you can’t afford to move.

“A divorce is very expensive,” says Vanesa Contioso of Geimsa. “So we are offering new clients the free use of our lawyers to handle the process.”

A big mistake that a lot of people make in divorce is trying to keep the house according to an article by Lew Sichelman in the Chicago Tribune.  Indeed in Maryland the court can grant use and possession of the family residence for up to three years from the date of divorce to the parent who gets custody of the minor children.  In other words, keep the kids, keep the house.

But Kelly Lise Murray, lawyer and real estate agent in Nashville, says if you must keep the house, you should obtain an appraisal, a third-party inspection, a termite inspection, and a title search for hidden liens.  Murray also says you should consider the true cost of home ownership, which may include things like lawn care, homeowner’s association fees, replacement of appliances, maintenance and upkeep.

Murray says people tend to underestimate the “ghosts” that go along with keeping the house. The place is often so filled with memories, both good and bad, she says, that “it’s not the family home anymore. It’s a huge lodestone.  If you’re still linked through the house, then you’re not really divorced.”