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What happens to your lease during your divorce?

If you are thinking about ending your marriage, you may already realize you must divide marital property. In New Jersey, judges typically do so according to what is equitable for each spouse. You also have an option to negotiate property division or to use mediation or another type of alternative dispute resolution to settle the matter. 

Rather than owning a home, you and your spouse may have a lease agreement. Even though it is not tangible property, your leasehold is likely marital property you must divide. If your lease has not expired on its own terms before your divorce concludes, you should address some lease-related matters. 

The name on the lease

If your soon-to-be ex-spouse wants to remain in the home, you should consider asking the landlord to remove your name from the lease. If your landlord is reluctant to do so, you may want to put a hold-harmless clause in your divorce settlement agreement. 

This type of clause removes your liability for house damage or other lease violations that occur after you vacate. 

Occupancy rights

If you want to remain in the property, you should be certain you have full rights under the lease agreement. Therefore, your divorce settlement should include a provision that transfers lease rights from your husband or wife to you. 

Also, use the agreement to define clearly what happens to any deposits you may have paid during your marriage. 

Termination of the lease

If neither you nor your spouse wants to remain in the rented property, you may be able to break the lease. Depending on the language of the agreement, this may require obtaining your landlord’s permission or finding a suitable subtenant. 

Because terminating a lease may have serious consequences, researching your options before starting settlement negotiations is key.