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The Divorce Encyclopedia
Lien; Spousal Lien on Marital Property


Term Definition Lien; Spousal Lien on Marital Property - an encumbrance placed upon property owned by a judgment debtor which prevents the sale, transfer of title, or refinancing of the property until the debt is paid.
Application in Divorce In law liens happen in a number of circumstances.

Governments put liens against property in the event of nonpayment of taxes. A homeowner who fails to keep his sidewalk and curbs in good repair may find that the municipality does it for him and then liens the property, that is, attaches the unpaid bill to the deed recording ownership and thereby encumbers the property.

In general, a lien is an attachment on personal or real property of a debtor seized by court order. The order is known as a writ of attachment.

In divorce actions, spouses can petition the court to put a lien on marital property subject to distribution when it might otherwise be sold by one spouse.

Courts issue attachments to preserve marital assets that have not been divided. An adjunct to restraining orders, they are issued if there exists substantial risk that a restraining order would be violated. For example, if the marital home is in the husband’s name, and despite a restraining order to the contrary he sells it, a writ of attachment puts everyone on notice that the purchase includes the wife’s rights. For example, if Bill owns a house he bought prior to marrying Bonnie, she may seek a spousal lien on the marital property because the property is subject to distribution even though it is in his name alone. The lien is an attachment that puts the world on notice that the property is subject to pending litigation. In other words, the title is not clear.

Most writs of attachment are issued ex parte, or without notice, to prevent a party from acting before the attachment is effected.

See also Attachment; Lis Pendens.

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