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A Creditor Cannot Satisfy a Judgment Entered Against One Spouse By Forcing The Sale Of Real Estate Owned Jointly By Both Spouses

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The New Jersey Appellate Division recently held that a third-party creditor cannot go after real estate owned jointly by spouses to satisfy a judgment that had been entered against one of the spouses.

In Jimenez v. Jimenez, Docket No. A-2495-16T1, the plaintiffs were seeking to enforce a judgment entered against the defendant by compelling the partition and sale of a parcel of real estate that was owned by the defendant and his wife. The defendant and his wife owned a thirty-acre tract of undeveloped land as tenants by the entirety, a form of joint property ownership available only to spouses.

The court ruled in the defendant's favor and stated that N.J.S.A. 46:3-17.4, a statute that went into effect on January 5, 1988, prohibited the partition and sale sought by the plaintiffs because the property in question is owned by the defendant and his wife as tenants by the entirety. The court explained that otherwise, a "free-wheeling spousen could detrimentally affect the other spouse's interests in their co-owned property by amassing individual debt.

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