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Court order does not give a divorced party sole homeownership

Following divorce, many Illinois couples divide former marital property. A divorcing party may be able to obtain a court order stating that he or she alone is the owner of the home. However, the simplicity of a court order does little to resolve the complexity of separating an ex-spouse from a mortgage or title in a property division.

Retaining a former spouse’s name on a mortgage means that both spouses are responsible for payments toward the loan. Doing so on a title means that the ex-spouses are both considered the owners of the property. The spouse who is awarded the marital property in a divorce proceeding must undertake the task of removing his or her former partner’s name from both the mortgage and the title in order to truly claim sole ownership.

Mortgage loan payments are reported to credit reporting bureaus. The payment history, including any late payments, will affect the credit report of those listed as the homeowners. The spouse seeking sole ownership needs a quitclaim deed showing that his or her former partner is no longer part owner of the property and, therefore, can be removed from the mortgage loan and relieved of repayment obligations.

Failing to remove an ex-husband or ex-wife from the title will continue to show both partners as homeowners in public records. To be documented as the sole owner of the property, a quitclaim deed must be obtained to properly transfer the title to one person.

If a spouse refuses to sign over the rights to the property in a quitclaim deed, a divorce attorney may request a court order from a judge that requires a signature. Should the spouse continue to refuse to relinquish ownership, a court could issue a deed on behalf of that spouse. A quitclaim deed can be recorded with the local office for real estate records to reflect the change in ownership in public property records for the purposes of mortgage loans and title of ownership.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “After divorce, deed of home and mortgage become different issues,” Ilyce Glink and Samuel Tamkin, Feb. 23, 2013

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