Q: I have paid the mortgage for 7 years while my husband didn't contribute. Do I need to split the house 50/50 in divorce?
I bought the house in my name. He has never been on the title. I paid the mortgage all 7 years. I have paid all the utilities and he has given me cash for the last 5 years, in an amount that didn't cover all utility costs. I was primarily responsible for all inside cleaning and projects. He thinks he is entitled to half because he helped with the outside upkeep. We have no kids together and neither party is staying in the house. We are in Colorado.
A: Funds earned during the marriage are marital funds regardless of which party earns them or pays expenses with them. Unless you paid with funds that you had earned prior to the marriage and kept those funds in a separate bank account throughout the marriage then each of you have an equitable interest in the home.
You ask an excellent question and you are wise to start looking for appropriate resources to help you have perspective as to what could happen in a divorce and what your legal rights are. The best answer I can give you without more information is "maybe." Domestic relations law in Colorado provides for an "equitable distribution" of property subject to division by the Court. There are many nuances, cases, and laws that boil this general idea down quite a bit further.
To point out one that may be of particular interest to you is the legal doctrine of "contribution." Sometimes when one spouse contributes more to the marital estate (the property subject to division), they may be entitled to a larger portion of the marital estate in order to achieve an "equitable" property distribution. Property division in Colorado does not have to be equal.
Assuming that you have been diligently paying the mortgage for 7 years and that you financed the home with a down payment - there is likely equity that is worth protecting. It is critically important to note that property distribution in Colorado is impacted by many of the facts and circumstances surrounding your life and marriage. I highly suggest that you have a consultation with an appropriate attorney licensed to practice law in Colorado.
I sincerely wish you only the absolute best that life has to offer and want you to know that there is light on the other side of all of this.
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