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Litigation Blog.
The seasoned lawyers and litigators at The Rubinstein Law Firm are here to share their insights with you.

Taking ownership of the family home after divorce

A home is so much more than the materials used in its construction. It is a place of comfort, warmth and love, and the scene of many treasured memories. A divorce upends all of this, and the house – once a source of stability – can quickly become a point of contention.

One partner usually winds up maintaining control of the home. But in order to make this change official, you must take a few more steps.

Transferring ownership of the home

Married couples usually wind up owning a home together, meaning both names appear on the deed. When a partner moves out of that home following a divorce, there is generally no reason for their name to remain on that key document. To make this change, many separated couples use something called a quitclaim deed.

A quitclaim deed is a relatively simple way for one person to transfer ownership of real property (such as a house or land) to someone else. It requires valid signatures from both spouses, and then the proper form must be filed with the appropriate Register of Deeds. When done successfully, the person moving out can legally transfer their ownership interest in the home to the person who is remaining.

A quitclaim deed works best when both parties know the history of the property, because it makes no guarantees about the title. If there are questions about whether someone else may have ownership interest in the house, a quitclaim deed may not be the best option. In addition, keep in mind there may be transfer taxes owed as part of the exchange.

A quitclaim deed has no effect on the mortgage

There is an important caveat when it comes to quitclaim deeds: They only affect ownership interest and have no impact on the mortgage. Even after a quitclaim deed is filed, the now-separated partners have the same obligations to pay the home loan.

Usually, the person who takes control of the house will try to refinance the property in their name alone. This is not always possible, however. Removing a name from the mortgage loan might then require extra efforts and creative solutions.

This possibility is worth exploring as part of property division discussions. A cherished family home that becomes a source of financial angst is of no benefit to anyone.