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My husband’s ex-wife’s name is still on deed of house we paid off. What do we do now?

Updated: Apr 28

When a couple who owns property together divorces, the court issues a judgment order also known as a divorce decree. This document divides marital assets, but it does not transfer ownership of real estate from one party to the other. Many couples do not realize they should apply for a new deed if one of them will continue to own the home and live in it while the other moves elsewhere. Unfortunately, this can present problems years down the road.

What happens when spouses do not change the real estate deed at the time of divorce?

Assume that you married someone who had been married before, and you moved into the home he once shared with his ex-wife. The two of you live in the home for many years after your marriage and eventually pay it off in full. Another scenario is that you and your spouse decide to refinance the mortgage on the home you have shared for years. You do not discover that the deed still lists the name of his ex-wife until the two of you attempt to finalize a real estate transaction.

How to remove the name of a former spouse from a real estate deed

Transferring ownership of a piece of real estate to only one spouse involves the following steps:

  • Read the divorce decree carefully to determine who has a legal right to the property.

  • Contact the county recorder’s office to obtain a copy of the real estate deed.

  • Locate a blank form to complete a new deed and transfer ownership from the couple to only one of the spouses. These forms are typically available online. Both spouses should sign the new document in the presence of a notary public.

  • Submit an original copy of the new deed to the county recorder’s office and obtain a copy for recordkeeping purposes.

A quitclaim deed is the most popular type of real estate deed used by divorcing couples to transfer ownership to one party. The only purpose of this document is to remove the name of one spouse from the deed to the house.

The spouse who will no longer have a legal claim to the property releases his or her claim to the other spouse, hence the name quitclaim. The reason most divorcing couples prefer to use a quitclaim deed is that it does not provide either party with a warranty of title.

However, a common mistake that people make when going through a divorce is for the spouse moving out of the home to assign his or her half of the interest to the other spouse. This is incorrect because it still leaves the former couple in a co-ownership situation.

Removing a former spouse’s name from a deed can present legal issues when that person refuses to cooperate, cannot be located, or has passed away. You and your spouse will want to contact an attorney in any of these situations. Baystate Law Group specializes in family and real estate law and is here to help. Please request a consultation today.

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