How to Get a Divorced Spouse Off a House Title

By Lee Hall, J.D.

How to Get a Divorced Spouse Off a House Title

By Lee Hall, J.D.

Divorce results in a division of all of the couple's marital assets. Once the court awards you the marital home, the next step is to remove your former spouse from the title. The most common way is to transfer the title into your name as sole owner through a quitclaim deed.

Man holding cat on couch next to woman staring concernedly into the distance

The form by itself does not prove your former spouse had ownership rights. That would require a title search. In the case of divorce, though, the parties may deem the expense of a full title search unnecessary. Both parties typically bought the home together. Thus, they already have gone through the conveyance process and know who holds the title.

The quitclaim deed doesn't convey a title; it simply allows one party, the grantor, to step aside. Once filed, the quitclaim deed means the removed spouse may not have access to the property without the sole owner's consent and invitation.

Removing a Divorced Spouse from a House Title with a Quitclaim Deed

A quitclaim deed is a legal document that transfers ownership of a property from one person to another. Since both parties are already aware of any possible existing issues to the property, the quitclaim deed is a simple process that forgoes the amount of paperwork that can be involved with title issues. Here is the process of obtaining a quitclaim deed.

1. Go to the county's Register of Deeds.

You may obtain the quitclaim form in the county of the home. The county's Register of Deeds provides the form and the existing deed, with the legal description of the real estate.

2. Complete the quitclaim deed.

Copy the legal description onto the appropriate space on the quitclaim form.

Name yourself as the grantee. Name your former spouse, who is transferring all ownership rights in the real estate to you, as the grantor.

Caution: Be sure that the grantor does not just transfer rights in half of the property. The grantor must transfer rights in the entire property to the grantee.

3. Sign before a notary public.

Both former marriage partners must sign the form. A notary public must witness the signing by the two parties.

The Register of Deeds can now accept the signed form and the associated fees.

4. Address the mortgage loan.

Most houses involve a mortgage. Typically, the mortgage is the couple's joint and monthly responsibility to pay. Your former spouse still has the legal duty to pay as long as both of your names remain on the mortgage.

A court should anticipate this issue when producing the divorce documents. These papers may make the award of the home contingent on the lending institution releasing the grantor from the mortgage. The divorce documents may also indemnify the parties from any consequences the other's future financial conduct.

In any case, most lending institutions release the grantor from the mortgage loan when they receive copies of the final divorce decree, any settlement agreement, and the quitclaim deed.

Often, the party who receives the marital home through a divorce refinances the property. The new mortgage loan then carries only one name as the home's sole owner and the person responsible for related debts.

After All Is Said and Done

Once the divorce is final, if your former spouse refuses to relinquish the property that the court awarded to you, you may need to enforce the judgment.

To do this, go back to the judge to obtain a court-ordered quitclaim deed. Following state precedent, the judge can hold your former spouse in contempt of court or, alternatively, order a transfer of the property in lieu of the quitclaim deed.

When you receive a home as part of a divorce decree, your former spouse must relinquish all rights to this property. A quitclaim deed usually suffices, but you can go to the court if necessary to enforce your rights.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.