Dear Cassie: I am in the process of going through a divorce. During our marriage, we deferred making certain repairs to our home. Now that we are divorcing, can I make those repairs?
Dear J.L: The short answer is – it depends on the facts of your case.
During the period of time that a divorce is pending (meaning, the parties have not yet settled their case, nor have they yet had a trial in front of a judge to decide the issues in their case), the Court will generally seek to maintain the financial status quo of the parties. In other words, what the parties did before, during their marriage, is generally what they should both continue to do during the pendency of the case. Moreover, the Court will generally seek to preserve and protect the assets of the parties, so as to avoid a depletion or diminishment of the assets as much as possible pending the outcome of the case.
Thus, if the parties made a decision during their marriage to defer discretionary capital improvements to their home, it is likely that a Court would not prioritize or authorize this kind of expenditure during the divorce case.
That principle is contrasted to necessary repairs and maintenance that cannot be deferred–such as the replacement of a roof that is leaking, or an air conditioner that is broken.
Similarly, if the parties did typically spend funds on capital improvements during the marriage, and have the funds to continue to do so, there is more of an argument that capital improvements should be made during the course of the divorce case.
Of course, the parties can always agree, by consent, to implement repairs and/or capital improvements to the home during their divorce case, as they see fit.
If you are dealing with the issue of payment of bills, including capital improvements and repairs, during your divorce case, you should seek the advice of matrimonial counsel.
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Cassie Murphy is a divorce and family law Partner with the Law Offices of Paone, Zaleski & Murphy, with offices in Red Bank and Woodbridge.