Can a Husband Sell a House Without His Wife?

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When couples share ownership of a home and then separate or divorce, there can be disagreements as to how the property will be handled. Can a husband sell his wife's home without her permission if it is his home, too? The answer to this depends on a host of different factors, including the property location and how the home was purchased.


Is it OK if a Husband Sells His Wife’s Property?

Someone who has legal title to a home can sell it. This means that their name must be registered on the Certificate of Title. More than one person can have legal title to a property, so a married couple can jointly own a home when both names are on the title. This means that they purchased it together, and each owns half.

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As a general rule, when more than one person holds legal title to a home, each one must consent to the sale. Both signatures will be needed on all of the property transfer documents and any mortgage documents associated with the proceedings. It is against the law for a husband to sell property that is jointly owned with his wife without her knowledge or permission. In cases where only one spouse has that legal title, the other may be able to stop or control the sale.


How Is Marital Property Distributed in Divorces?

Marital property is defined as all the property that either or both spouses acquire throughout a marriage; separate property is obtained by spouses individually before or after separation. Some states abide by the community property rule: Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Washington, Texas, Wisconsin, Nevada, Louisiana and California. For these residents, the marital property is divided equally between the two and each person keeps their separate property.

The other 41 states follow equitable distribution, which is based on equitable (not always equal) distribution. Courts can award spouses different percentages of a property's total value, and this can include proceeds from a home sale, debts and assets. These distributions adhere to assigned percentages. It is always illegal to hide assets during a divorce, and courts punish those who attempt to do so. If a husband sells his wife's house without permission, he will be facing consequences unless he is the sole owner.


How Do You Sell a House if One Partner Refuses?

If one divorcing spouse refuses to sell or move out, it may be possible to buy them out. Some custodial parents buy out noncustodial parents to remain in the home with the children. This can be part of the divorce settlement. One spouse pays the other, and this is usually done through a refinance and new mortgage. Another choice is to give the spouse the home in exchange for other assets.

Another option is for a spouse to sell their share of the property to another person. Although this is a less common solution, some spouses sell to other family members, such as a child or parent. The right to sell co-owned property shares is not always legal, though, and can cause problems if the proposed new owner is a stranger.


As a last resort, a spouse can seek legal help and attempt to partition the property. The writers at the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute explain this process as a "division of concurrent interests in land." This requires a court decision and, in the end, the property can be split up in different ways. It can be according to ownership percentage or a court-ordered sale. Sometimes this is done through a public auction, which goes to the highest bidder. It is also important to know that any debts on the property will need to be paid from the sale proceeds.