Obviously, in most cases, before there is an actual divorce hearing, one of the spouses has left the marital home. That spouse has had to find some other place to live, has incurred expenses for the new residence, and is unwilling or unable to contribute to the mortgage of the former marital home.
Under the law, generally, when one joint owner pays the mortgage, taxes and other carrying charges of jointly-owned property, that spouse is entitled to contribution towards those expenses from the other spouse. The leading Maryland case on contribution is Crawford v. Crawford. It held that a joint tenant who pays the mortgage and taxes of jointly owned property is entitled to contribution from the other joint owner. Our courts have generally recognized the right to recover “Crawford credits.” As a result, if your spouse has left the marital home, refused to pay some of the costs, and you are paying all the expenses of the home, in theory you have the right to make a claim for contribution towards those expenses.
However, there are several important exceptions to that general principle. Where the departed spouse can claim that there has been an “ouster,” in which he was forced to leave the home or was excluded from it, that can result in a forfeiture of the right of contribution. Also, where the household expenses are paid out of marital property, the court will often not allow contribution. It is within the discretion of the court to determine whether it is equitable and just to award contribution, considering all the factors.
As a practical matter, it is often difficult to convince the court to award contribution while the parties are still married to each other. The spouse who has remained in the home has had full use of the home to the exclusion of the departed spouse; the expenses are often paid out of marital property (assets of both husband and wife); and the departed spouse has his own residence expenses. It is important to know that there is such a potential claim while married although it may be unlikely that the trial court will award contribution towards the residence expenses. However, after the divorce is completed, and before the house is sold, or title transferred to the remaining spouse, a claim for contribution is more likely to be successful.
Contribution to Household Expenses: The Baltimore Divorce Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles Can Help
The emotional upheaval of a separation and pending divorce is not the only concern that must be addressed. There are practical financial issues that a couple needs to work out such as the contribution of each to the marital residence expenses and other shared liabilities. These issues can be complicated and contentious. Call the Baltimore County divorce lawyers of Huesman, Jones & Miles at our Hunt Valley law offices to get your questions answered and to receive the legal guidance necessary to get through this difficult time. We are conveniently located to represent clients throughout Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County and Howard County, including the areas of Baltimore, Towson, Essex, Columbia and Bel Air. Call us at (443) 589-0150 or contact us online.