Resolving Real Estate Disputes Before They Start

January 26, 2022

As a California divorce attorney, you know a lot is going on in your clients’ lives as they move through the process of divorce. In addition to the normal stressors of modern life, they’re facing the pressures of losing partners who promised to stay with them through thick and thin and potentially losing the home they built together. Anger, resentment, hurt feelings, and fragile self-esteem on both sides of the case can add up to create busy headspaces that can make otherwise reasonable people lash out in ways they wouldn’t ordinarily behave. This can spell disaster for the emotional and financial well-being of your clients.

Property destruction, contract sabotage, obstructed showings, title disputes—these are only a few of the problems you’ll likely face as you navigate your clients’ California real estate issues. Being proactive about real estate matters can help you close divorce cases quickly and cleanly, with minimum impact on your clients’ home equity.

Here are a few of the divorce real estate problems you should nip in the bud before they get out of hand:

Understand the mindset of both spouses before you begin

Predicting how your client and their soon-to-be-ex-spouse will behave during their divorce proceedings can help you prepare legally and emotionally for the experience, and help determine how much professional support they’ll need to have to get through the process reasonably unscathed. You can accomplish this by assessing where the couple falls on the Conflict Spectrum.

Deciding whether to keep or sell the house

If your client and their spouse have children together, one of them could make a strong argument for staying and raising the kids in what is possibly the only home they’ve ever known. The first step in the process will be to determine whether the occupying spouse can qualify to stay in the home. If they can, you’ll also need to decide how that person will hold the title. Here is some important information that can help you determine whether your client should sell the home or keep it.

Deciding who will live in the house during the divorce proceedings

If your client has children, it may make sense for them to continue living in the family home during their divorce proceedings. The courts may have to decide which parent is the better fit for living in the home with the kids if the spouses can’t agree on their own. There are other factors to consider, so make sure you have a clear understanding of your client’s specific living situation before recommending a living arrangement.

Preventing either spouse from impeding showings

Anger and resentment will rear their ugly heads at some point during every divorce, and for some, that takes the form of petulant tantrums and refusals to cooperate. The important thing here is to make sure both spouses understand what’s at stake. Getting in the way of selling the family home isn’t going to yield favorable results; in fact, it can cause devastating financial harm to both spouses. To resolve this issue, it will be important to understand what the angry spouse is actually angry about. Do they want to keep the house for themselves? Help them understand how to qualify for it. Do they want to prevent the other spouse from getting a financial windfall? Help them see the damage they’ll cause to their own financial well-being. If that doesn’t work, then make sure there’s always something in it for them: a free lunch every time they have to leave the house for a showing, or maybe a small “thank you” gift for every week they don’t cause problems. Whatever makes them respond favorably to your needs will be the answer to getting through the divorce quickly.

Preventing either spouse from intentionally (or unintentionally) damaging the property

Here’s another area where a tantrum can cause expensive damage. For prevention’s sake, it might make sense to ensure neither spouse lives in the house during a divorce, but if at least one has to live there, you’ll need to make sure the property stays clean and presentable so it will show well to prospective buyers. If your client has concerns about showing their property during the pandemic, you can assure them that real estate agents are bound by strict policies designed to prevent transmission of the virus.

Getting an angry spouse to sign the listing or sale contract

Here, again, is another opportunity for an angry spouse to hijack the divorce. To head off this all-too-common problem, paint a picture of what life could be like after divorce. If they hinder the sale of the house, they’ll get a smaller payout which could mean spending many years in financial recovery. If, however, they participate meaningfully in the preparation and sale of the house (or just stay out of it altogether), they could emerge from their divorce financially whole and ready to start the next chapter of their lives.

Preventing an angry spouse from breaking the contract

Once you’ve convinced an angry spouse to your side, you’ll need to keep an eye out to make sure they stay on your side! It’s not uncommon for sellers to get cold feet just before a contract closes, and in cases of divorce, there’s even more at stake! So you’ll need to stay on top of everyone’s emotional state leading up to the closing date—and here’s where a CDRE can really help! The job of the CDRE is to protect the value of the property and advocate for the interests of the seller. In a divorce case where both spouses hold title to the property, both spouses are the seller. Therefore, the CDRE represents the interests of both spouses equally. For the CDRE, it’s the buyer that stands on the opposing side of the transaction, not your client’s spouse.

Final Thoughts

As a divorce attorney, you should be freed to focus on the legal aspects of dissolving marriages. Acting as a therapist—and sometimes a parental figure—shouldn’t be part of the deal, especially when it comes to wading through the minutiae involved in selling a house.

A Certified Divorce Real Estate Expert (CDRE) takes all real estate-related matters off your plate, shielding you from unnecessary drama and freeing your time so you can focus on other matters.

Learn more about how a CDRE can help you with your divorce cases.


Shannon Rose
DRE# 01422955
Los Gatos, CA



DRE #01422955

DRE #01526679

16780 LARK AVE.

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