Q During our 15 years of marriage, my wife became and is a hoarder. She claims she’s just collecting good stuff for our house. Her collectibles are years of newspapers, magazines, every dirty used pizza box, stuffed waste barrels, dirty clothing, cat and dog feces, etc. It’s almost impossible to walk through the rooms.
So, I filed for divorce. The judge ordered that the house, which is our only valuable asset, be sold. That’s because neither of us has the money to buy the other one out. Since then I’ve been taking stuff to the town dump. But as soon as an area of the house gets empty, my wife immediately refills that space with more junk.
The real estate sales people refuse to list the house for sale until its cleaned out, professionally sanitized, and re-pained inside and out.
Would you please give me some direction on how to get from here to the sale of the house?
A You need to file a motion in court asking the judge to permanently order your wife out of the house and to authorize you to clean out, sanitize, and have the house painted. So, if the order is entered and, nevertheless, she returns to the house during or after the work is finished, she could be held in contempt of court.
With your motion, you also need to file your affidavit which details your efforts to clean out the house and you wife’s conduct to keep the house filled with junk. Take photographs of every room in the house. Then print out the photos onto 8 x 12 glossy paper. Ask the real estate salespeople to write letters describing what they’ve observed and commenting that, before the house can be put up for sale, it has to be emptied, sanitized, and re-painted inside and out.
If possible also take photos of you packing up your car or truck, of your donating stuff to a charity, and emptying the junk into the dump.
Also request the judge to order that you and your wife shall be equally responsible for paying the costs for cleaning out and getting the house ready for sale, with payment coming off the top of the net sale proceeds. And, you can also suggest, if the judge believes it’s necessary, s/he can go look at the house. I’d predict the photos will suffice.
Last, expect your wife to counter with her motion requiring you to pay for a place for her to live in until after the sale. If so, reply by saying it would be fair that, if you are ordered to pay now, that she must repay you from her share of the net sale proceeds.
Winston Churchill once said: “Life if fraught with opportunities to keep your mouth shut [but his isn’t one of them]”.