Can the Court Force Me to Sell my Home or Business in a Missouri Divorce?
A common question in our office is whether the judge can force the sale of real estate or a business in a Missouri divorce. The answer is that a court cannot force the sale of marital property until it finds, 1) that the property cannot be divided in kind, and 2) that a sale would be in the best interest of one or both parties. These findings must be based on substantial evidence which means one party cannot just testify that this is what they want to happen. One or both parties need expert witnesses such as business valuation experts and/or real estate appraisers to testify in court.
This scenario comes up most often in cases where there are multiple pieces of real estate and one spouse has been the party primarily responsible for acquiring the real estate. The judge will seek to divide the real estate equitably between the parties as opposed to a forced sale first. This is what the law requires them to do. It is also a safer option than ordering one spouse to make a large cash equalization payment that may not be realistic or feasible.
This same scenario also often occurs with businesses. If there is a way to divide the business in kind the court must first determine what that would look like. Is it possible? This gets tricky because many times owning all the real estate together or owning all the business is much more valuable than owning only part. Clients must be careful that by splitting up the assets in kind they are not taking a substantial hit on the value. Do not cut off your nose to spite your face.
If you are wondering whether the court would force a sale of your real estate or business or you just want to find out what your rights are in a Missouri divorce, please contact us today.