Managing Lease Issues in the Context of Divorce
Divorce Involves a Series of Complex Property Distribution Issues and Lease Considerations are of the Many Included in the List in New Jersey
Divorce can be highly complicated, especially when spouses have major disputes regarding property distribution. The New Jersey courts apply equitable distribution to provide a division of property and assets with as much fairness as possible. Money that both spouses earned and saved, joint accounts, and assets such as furniture, cars, and real estate are all subject to equitable distribution. Retirement plans, businesses, or gifts between exes are also considered.
Lease Considerations for Divorcing Couples in New Jersey
Frequently, couples who have started the divorce process want to begin living separately as soon as possible. But an apartment or house lease can complicate things, especially if both names are on the lease and you are legally permitted to stay there. Of course, both of you are also. Required to pay rent. If both names are on the lease, both people are responsible for the rent, even when one spouse lives elsewhere. Sometimes, landlords remove one person from the lease to uncomplicate the situation.
Who stays on the property? An agreement may be reached when exes are on decent terms with one another. Maybe one of you has somewhere else to stay, with friends or family. If there are children to consider, most couples will keep them with one parent (typically whoever is the primary caregiver) to not upset their lives, some semblance of stability and routine.
The length of the lease is also a factor. For a year-long lease, there isn’t much time to wait. By the time everything is said and done, the divorce will be finalized, and you can go your separate ways. However, some landlords prefer a 3-year lease, which will be harder to settle.
Dealing with Landlord Opposition After a Judge’s Ruling
Sometimes, a landlord will not honor a judge’s decision about whose name stays on the lease. It benefits them to keep both names on the lease to secure payment from both or either one of you. It is more of a financially driven protective measure rather than a stubborn refusal. Suppose you or your spouse are staying in the apartment and are uncomfortable having both names on the lease. In that case, your lawyer can draft a document in which whoever inhabits the property is 100% responsible for the rent unless the judge has ordered one of you to pay all or a percentage of the rent as support.
Equitable Distribution and Lease Management
The court views a lease as marital property and divides it during the equitable distribution process as it deems appropriate. A judge cannot cancel a rental agreement (effectively breaking the lease) but can award one spouse or the other the lease for the property without the importance of whose name it is in. This can be particularly prickly when the lease is valid for a substantial length of time, such as six months to a year or more. You and your ex should be prepared to continue with the lease contract until it has expired. If you can decide between the two of you who will stay and who will pay, the process can be less confusing and significantly less frustrating. Judges prefer it when exes can make as many decisions between themselves as possible.
The rights to the rental property, who will be paying the utilities and security deposits, and who is responsible for any damage that occurs to the premises can be decided between you and the landlord. Still, they must be approved as part of the equitable distribution plan. Also, changes in a spouse’s situation, such as remarriage or others related to the leased property, should be handled as well. It is important to remember that the less time you spend arguing over who gets what and how much, the sooner you can put your divorce behind you.
Does the Leaseholder’s Name Matter?
It isn’t as important as you would think, especially when the court gets involved. A judge can decide if both of you are responsible for the lease even if only one name is on it, or reversely, give the property to one of you when the lease has both of your names. It is a balancing act led by the principles of equitable distribution.
Possible Alternatives for Your Housing in a Divorce with a Lease
If you want to keep the lease, you could wait until your divorce is settled and renew it (once it has expired) with just your name on it. If neither of you wants to live there, it is vital that you have a conversation with your landlord as soon as possible. They may give you a pass on breaking the lease, allow someone else to take over your lease, or agree to your payment of a fee for breaking it. But what if neither of you wants to leave? If the split is amicable, it is entirely possible that you can live together throughout the process. If that is the case, it would behoove you to have a written agreement that names the responsible parties for paying the rent and utilities for the duration of your time together.
Is it Possible to Incorporate Lease Entitlements in a Prenuptial Agreement?
Yes, it is. A valid prenup assigns financial responsibilities in the household to each (or both) parties.
Contact our Little Falls Lawyers for Assistance Handling Lease and Divorce Issues.
Seeking immediate legal advice is your best option. At the Montanari Law Group, we are well-versed in all aspects of divorce and can help you manage your financial responsibilities and residential possibilities. Don’t let your ex determine who stays and who goes. If you want to keep leasing the property, we have ways to help you. You need our experienced team of attorneys in your corner during this stressful period. We serve clients in Hawthorne, Wayne, Woodland Park, Clifton, Little Falls, New Milford, and other Northern New Jersey areas.
If you don’t want to stay on the lease or the property, we can negotiate with your landlord to reach an advantageous result. Without an agreement, you could be obligated to pay for a broken lease or continue to pay rent while your ex stays in the rented property.