Quitclaim Deed Before a Divorce

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Quitclaim Deed Before a Divorce

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Real property, like a home and accompanying land, is a large percentage of many married couples net worth. For this reason, real property distribution is often a hotly-debated issue during a divorce.

Blue pen, calculator, and book sitting on a piece of paper labeled "Quitclaim Deed"

Disputes over who owns a certain piece of property is not uncommon. These disputes sometimes involve property transferred by a quitclaim deed before a divorce. Whether property transferred in a quitclaim deed signed before a divorce is valid depends on the circumstances.

Quitclaim Deeds

A deed is a document that transfers ownership interest in property from one person to another. There are different types of deeds based on what the deed promises. For example, by signing a warranty deed, the person transferring the property warrants that they hold clear title to the property.

A quitclaim deed is a type of deed that transfers whatever interest the transferring party has in a piece of real property. It does not warrant that the transferring party actually owns the property or owns it without encumbrances. Why then would anyone want to use a quitclaim deed? They are quick and easy. Perhaps, this is why quitclaim deeds are often mistakenly referred to as “quick claim deeds." They are most often used between family members or other trusted individuals.

Validity of Quit Claim Deed Before Divorce

Before divorce, there are a variety of reasons to use quitclaim deeds, some fair and honest, others not so much. For instance, one spouse can use it to add the other spouse to the property title. Or, one spouse may transfer property owned solely in their name to a family member to try to avoid losing the property in the divorce.

Typically, property transfers pursuant to quitclaim deeds signed and witnessed according to applicable laws are valid whether executed before or after a divorce. However, there are some exceptions which vary by state. For example, if one spouse coerced the other under threat of violence to sign the quitclaim deed, the transaction will likely be set aside. Additionally, in some states certain types of property, such as homestead property, cannot be transferred without the other spouse's signature, even if only one spouse's name is in the deed.

Compensation for Unfair Quitclaim Transfers

Sometimes, the transfer of property by one spouse is legal but not fair to the other spouse. Fortunately, divorce courts typically have wide discretion for making fair divorce settlements. In many cases, even if the divorce court finds a quitclaim deed valid, it can still compensate the non-transferring spouse for some or all the value of the transferred property if it finds the transfer was inequitable.

Whether you want to prepare a quitclaim deed that will be upheld during divorce or want insight into whether a quitclaim deed executed by your spouse is valid, it is advisable to use a third-party personal attorney or online legal service provider to assist you.

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.