During divorce, there is the phenomenon of the disappearing spouse, in which one party literally drops out of sight and stops communicating. This often happens at critical moments, such as when the settlement documents are awaiting signatures or when the buyer needs to take a final walk-through.

The motive for this behavior may be despair, fear, depression, or sheer revenge; whatever the reason, it makes it hard to get things done. Patience and persistence are helpful in overcoming this challenge, but they may not be enough when there are hard deadlines looming—such as a close-of-escrow date or the expiration of a loan approval.

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“I’m Not Leaving!” 

Sometimes the in-spouse simply refuses to vacate the property. The out-spouse may have allowed the ex to stay as an act of compassion, only to see the arrangement become permanent by default. When that happens the court may assert control and order an eviction, and the process can be swift and brutal.

Normal eviction proceedings between a tenant and landlord require a series of legal steps, which may allow the occupants to remain in the property for weeks or months. That’s not always the case when a family court orders an eviction. In California where I practice, as soon as the judge slams the gavel, that decision is immediately enforceable.

In the cases I’ve been involved with, the deadline is typically forty-eight or seventy-two hours. The out-spouse can take the court order, go to the property—perhaps with a sheriff’s deputy, change the locks, and it’s done. This may take place even before the house is sold, if the in-spouse is impeding the sale of the property or otherwise ignoring the court’s rulings. The lesson is: the court will do whatever is necessary to enforce its decisions. It doesn’t pay to defy a court order.


About Laurel Starks

Laurel Starks is a divorce real estate specialist. Trained in both mediation and collaborative divorce methods, she speaks frequently on real estate and divorce issues to legal and alternative disputes resolution groups.

A former host of the talk radio program Real Estate Matters, Starks also serves as an expert witness in real estate matters related to divorce cases, including the mishandling of procedural aspects therein. She handles the sale of real property in family law cases, and is one of the top producing realtors in the nation. She was nominated in 2016 for the coveted Innovator of the Year by Inman News, the real estate industry’s leading news source. Laurel lives with her husband and two sons in Southern California.

Starks is the author of The House Matters in Divorce: Untangling the Legal, Financial and Emotional Ties Before You Sign on the Dotted Line, published by Unhooked Books.

From “The House Matters In Divorce,” by Laurel Starks. View this book at this link: