In Jimenez v. Jimenez, 454 N.J. Super. 432 (App. Div. 2018), the New Jersey Appellate Division, interpreting on a 30-year old statute, effected a major change in tenancy by the entirety law by holding, for the first time, that New Jersey law prohibits the forced partition and sale of real property owned as tenants by the entirety to satisfy a judgment creditor of one spouse. It is important to recognize what the Appellate Division decision changed and what it did not change, and how this change impacts collection and bankruptcy law.
Tenancy by the entirety is a form of joint property ownership available only to spouses that is created when they take title to property as husband and wife. Jimenez v. Jimenez summarizes the law. Each spouse becomes seized and possessed of the entire estate, and each enjoys the right of survivorship, such that after the death of one spouse, the survivor takes the whole. Although the common law genesis of this concept is predicated on the unity of the spouses, tenancies by the entirety survive as a means of protecting marital assets and as security for one spouse on the death of the other. A judgment creditor seeking to recover from real property held as tenants by the entirety must go through a multistep process: levy, execution, partition and sale.
Levy and Execution
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