Earlier this month, I made a presentation to a group of local real estate agents about some of the legal issues surrounding real estate transactions involved with divorces. What follows is the first third of a set of notes I wrote for the presentation handout, offered here because the information is as important for the owners as for the agents. Part 2 will cover issues which may arise during the divorce proceedings, and Part 3 will address post-judgment transactions and related issues.
I. Be Aware of What Is Really Going On
A. Whether before, during, or after a divorce proceeding, often times there are multiple issues affecting a real estate transaction. For example, there are occasions when one party does not want to sell the property, and it is essential to know where everyone stands. When there are disputes at this stage, frequently one party will go ahead and file a Petition for Dissolution to allow for court assistance in resolving disputes.
B. Who are the players? Are there attorneys? Recent statistics show that 33% of Oregon divorces are filed without any attorneys representing either party. A full 50% of divorce cases filed in Oregon have only one attorney involved. In general, attorneys will aid you in getting property cleaned up, repaired, and ready for sale. There are important strategies in communicating with attorneys so that you document agreements and make progress toward final sale. Email is a good tool, as it records back and forth communications and provides a backup for what you have done. It also can effectively document lack of cooperation by one or both parties, if necessary.
2. Pre-Divorce Transactions: No Legal impediment, but potentially emotional.
Prior to filing a Petition for Dissolution, there is no additional legal impediment or restriction on sales of real property. The normal rules apply, and depending on who is on the property title, the property can close with a minimum of paperwork. However, if co-owners of a property are preparing to enter a divorce proceeding, there is potential for emotional behavior that may affect efficient transactions and closing. It is key to size up what is really going on at this stage and try and reduce the emotional aspect.